August 19, 2009

Early Preview: Florida State at Boston College

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Florida State will open the month of October with a trip to the northeast to take on ACC Atlantic foe Boston College. A game that has been dominated by the away team in recent history, the Seminoles will be looking to continue that trend in Chestnut Hill.

A trip to Boston in October probably means overcast skies, or perhaps even rainy weather. But adverse weather is something the Seminoles are used to playing in when taking on the Eagles.

Boston College, who improbably won the ACC Atlantic division via a tie breaking victory over Florida State in 2008, returns in 2009 season with many question marks at vital positions.

Florida State will look to erase the bitter taste from last season's fiasco that cost the Seminoles a trip to Tampa to face Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game.

Previous meeting:

Seminoles fans will likely look back on last year's contest with disgust and realize the opportunity that was lost that November night. With the hype surrounding the "black out" game, it was Florida State's ACC Championship hopes that were severely darkened.

Earlier in the day, Wake Forest suffered a defeat at the hands of N.C. State opening the door for FSU to control its destiny in the ACC Atlantic. But it was not to be as the Eagles left Doak Campbell Stadium as 27-17 winners.

The 'Noles shot themselves in the foot early and often with numerous turnovers and penalties. Florida State dug itself into a deep hole and were unable to climb out in the second half.

Quarterback Christian Ponder was intercepted three times and Mickey Andrews' defense could not get the Eagle's offense off the field, especially late in the game. BC's infamous nine-minute touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, which was prolonged by a penalty, put the game away for good and emasculated the Seminole defense.

Boston College held a massive advantage in time of possession controlling the close for 38:07 and rushed for 176 yards on 47 carries. Meanwhile, Florida State's usually potent ground game could never get going managing just 73 yards rushing on 24 attempts.

Key losses and returners:

Boston College returned an experienced offensive front with four of five starters back in the lineup. The only departure was left guard Cliff Ramsey. Matt Tennant will start for his third consecutive year at center and junior left tackle Anthony Castonzo has started every game for the Eagles since he arrived on campus.

The Eagles will return six wide receivers to the offense but will miss the most consistent player from this unit - Brandon Robinson. Rich Gunnell and Justin Jarvis are the likely starting receivers for the Eagles. The two seniors combined for 825 yards and 6 touchdowns last season.

Perhaps the biggest question mark on the team is the situation at quarterback. Right now, the most likely candidate to resume the starting role is David Shinske, a 25-year old former baseball player. Gone are Chris Crane (graduated) and Dominque Davis (suspended for academics) which leaves the job wide open.

The tailback tandem of Josh Haden and Montel Harris, who combined for 106 yards per game last year, will return in 2009.

Defensively, the Eagles have some huge holes to fill - literally. Monstrous defensive tackles BJ Raji and Ron Brace have departed for the NFL. Both were selected in the first two rounds. However, both starting defensive ends will return in 2009.

Boston College will also have to replace the ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich who unfortunately can no longer play due to cancer. 2008 co-captain and middle linebacker Mike McLaughlin suffered an Achilles injury and it is uncertain whether he will return this season.

The Eagles will return most of their secondary except for Paul Anderson who collected six interceptions last year.

All three specialists will be back in 2009.

Crucial matchup:

Florida State's front seven against the offensive line of Boston College.

Mickey Andrews' defensive front will be put to the test again against a big and experienced BC offensive line. The Eagles offensive line averages nearly 300 pounds per man with three different starters at least six-foot-seven. Last year, BC's front five out-muscled and wore down the smaller FSU defensive front.

As a result of the Eagles' physical superiority in the trenches, Montel Harris had plenty of lanes to run against the Seminole defense. As a result, he responded with 121 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. Josh Haden, a five-foot-eight speedster will also have to be kept in check.

Seminoles fans should be able to tell early in the game if Mickey Andrews' defense will be able to stop BC's physical running attack.

Keys to a Seminole victory:

Offensively, the Seminoles have to stay within themselves. Establishing the run will be a key, especially on the road in a conference game. With Boston College's losses in the middle of the defense, a consistent FSU ground attack should be an attainable goal. If the run doesn't work initially, it shouldn't be abandoned.

Defensively, Florida State must stop the run. They cannot afford to stay on the field for massive chunks of time like they did last year. Boston College will most likely put the game in the hands of its talented running backs instead of relying on an inexperienced quarterback.

Altogether-too-early prediction:

If the 'Noles can stop the run while not giving the ball away too often, they should be able to come out of Chestnut Hill with a win.

The strength, size, and experience of the Eagles' offensive front is a concern when combined with quality running backs. However, the lack of a consistent passing attack could be BC's downfall. Look for Florida State to sell out against the run and make Shinske beat them through the air.

Simply put, this is a game the Seminoles can't afford to drop if they want to make it to Tampa for the ACC Championship game in 2009.

Florida State should win by a touchdown or more.


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