Who has been the biggest surprise on the Seminole roster? How will the game go Saturday night? Do the fans at FSU now actually consider someone else their biggest rival?
For all that and more, please read the Q&A below.
SOTU: FSU has a lot of impressive players, in particular the RBs. Can you tell us a little bit about Devonta Freeman, Chris Thompson, and James Wilder Jr.? What are each's running styles? What makes each unique?
TN: Honestly, FSU fans were concerned about the running back position before the season started. Chris Thompson was coming off of a broken back, Freeman off of a back injury of his own, and Wilder was completely unreliable last season. Stud recruit Mario Pender underwent groin surgery that ended his season before it started, allegedly because he couldn’t be bothered to go to rehab for it when it was a minor injury. So, ‘Noles fans were looking at a scary depth chart with a real possibility of having to move fullback Lonnie Pryor to tailback, taking him out of his key role in the Florida State offense. Thankfully, Thompson jumped into 2012 as if he were shot from a cannon. He seems to have no lasting ill effects from the frightening injury, and is running better than he has at any time during his FSU career. He is a small, but explosive runner with great acceleration. He has been very difficult to defend on Florida State’s outside zone (OZ) runs and is the primary back for the ‘Noles. Freeman has struggled after being the leading rusher for FSU as a freshman a year ago. He’s slightly larger than Thompson, maybe taller by an inch and heavier by 15 pounds or so, and is a bit more physical. Freeman has dealt with the murder of his brother earlier in the season and has also been passed by James Wilder, Jr. for reps this fall. Wilder is the largest of the backs and his running style is that of a bruiser. The superstar recruit had problems with learning Florida State’s zone running scheme in his freshman season, but has made great progress since and has carved out a niche within the ‘Noles offense. Thompson will get the lions’ share of carries Saturday night with Wilder serving as the changeup and/or short yardage back, while Freeman might see a few carries here and there.
SOTU: It looks like the Seminoles had very little hangover from the NC State loss against FSU. Talk a little about the team's mental state. Do they appear more focused now that they have lost? Are they angry?
TN: While a 51-7 victory is always nice to notch, from a quality standpoint we at TN weren’t particularly impressed. Yes, it was nice to see the team avoid a flat and despondent performance in a situation in which it wouldn’t have been surprising, but FSU’s execution was certainly lacking at times and on many occasions they took advantage of terrible play from BC. Aside from the fact that it was a loss, the thing that made the NC State game such a disappointment was that it was a script we’d all seen before. An unacceptably sloppy FSU team failing to put an outmatched team away on the road and then losing late is something we’ve seen far too much under Jimbo Fisher. Depending on your source for lines, Jimbo has lost to a 10-17 pt. underdog 4 or 5 times during his tenure. The loss to the Wolfpack showed a disheartening lack of growth in an area that sorely needs it. That said, the ‘Noles still have a chance for a very successful season. This is a program that hasn’t won the ACC since 2005 and desperately needs to do so again. Florida State will still be favored in all of its remaining games and has a chance to string together an impressive streak even though it is almost certainly out of the national title conversation. I hope that the team takes these opportunities seriously and commits itself to seizing them. As far as the current mental state, we hear the quotes from guys like Timmy Jernigan saying that the loss woke them up or whatever, but honestly I don’t put much stock into their words. We’ll see in how they react on the field. Last Saturday was passable, and I don’t think they’ll have any issue with motivation this week. The games like next week against Duke, @Maryland, etc. will shed more light on the question of FSU’s focus for the remainder of the 2012 season.
SOTU: There are a lot of players having great seasons for FSU. Who has been the most pleasant surprise?
TN:I’m tempted to go with Thompson here for the aforementioned reasons, but I’ll talk about somebody else. Left tackle Cameron Erving was moved from defensive tackle last spring and asked to step into a starting role on a Seminole offensive line that featured ten different starters a year ago and four true freshmen in the bowl game against Notre Dame. This really isn’t supposed to work, but Erving has exceeded reasonable expectations of him so far this year. He has the natural build of an NFL tackle and a definite mean streak, and has been quite reliable on EJ Manuel’s blind side and in the OZ running game. Erving beats his counterpart at right tackle for this honor, in my opinion, only because Menelik Watson hasn’t been as healthy. Watson is from Manchester, UK, and came to FSU as a JUCO this past off-season after having played football for only one season in his life. He’s been solid on the right side, but has missed time due to injury and illness. On defense I’ll throw out Nick Waisome, who has filled in for Greg Reid at field corner. He has exceeded expectations and the ‘Noles haven’t seen a significant drop-off at this position, although the real hole left by Reid’s dismissal has been at punt returner.
SOTU: How does the average Florida State fan feel about Miami?
TN: Oh it’s getting real now. I think opinions actually vary pretty widely within the fanbase. I think a lot of fans who live in South Florida really detest the ‘Canes, some even to a greater level than Florida. Likewise those who grew up watching the great games from the late ‘80’s to early 2000’s are likely to loathe Miami on a comparable scale as UF. For a young ‘Noles fan such as myself, most of the memories I have from my formative years of watching FSU-UM games are negative ones. I thought that Godforsaken streak would never end. I think the average Florida State fan still thinks of Miami as the number two rival to Florida, although those of us at TN are arguing that Clemson has already or soon will assume that spot. We think that Miami’s sanctions, financial situation, and leadership will make it tough for the ‘Canes to be a competitive program. On the one hand this is sort of saddening to us because this rivalry was once the hallmark of college football, but on the other it really helps the FSU program for Miami to be down (read: recruiting).
SOTU: Your favorite all time memory from the series?
TN: I consulted our staff on this one, and netted a couple of different answers. This response is courtesy of Michael Rogner, Matthew Minnick and Fsued.
"My favorite memory was the FSU-Miami game in 1989 (this was the year we opened with a loss to Brett Favre's Southern Miss). While Chief O was going to plant the spear the Miami mascot runs out of the tunnel with a fire extinguisher, and some local Tally cops thought he was serious and pretty much beat him down. We took that as a good sign. Miami got the opening kick and Geno threw a pick to Leroy Butler on the first play from scrimmage. Dexter Carter housed it on the next play and Doak has never rocked quite as loud as it did right then. Oh and Dex put a penalty flag on a Miami LBs head (first name Bernard). All of us students had pretty much just pulled the whiskey ziplocks out of our pants and filled out cokes when this happened, and the place was so jacked that everyone threw their drinks into the air and we were all soaked in whiskey and coke. But this was the 80s so we had plenty more. The Canes, ranked No. 2, tried to get back into it, but then from the 2nd Q on FSU shut them out - Kirk Carruthers was at his douchey best and Doak (at least my section) partied like no other game I've been at."
This one is from FrankDNole
"It’s a tie between the 1996 and 1997 games.
The 1996 game, because it ended the 12 year winless drought in the Orange Dump. It was such a relief and what an awesome sight it was watching my Noles digging up the field after the game. The players were having a blast ripping up the turf and I think just about every player brought home a piece of sod, and those of us FSU fans that were there were delirious watching all of this transpire on their sacred home turf.
And the 1997 game, this from a previous story I wrote with 2 great quotes attached.
Florida State overpowered Miami from the start to hand the canes their worst defeat since 1927. It wasn't just the offense that was effective for the Noles as they piled up 422 yards, but the defense was equally impressive. The 'Noles D limited the canes to 131 yards of total offense and -33 yards rushing. The offense used a balanced attack and big plays to blow away the Hurricanes 47-0. This great victory was the most lopsided win ever for FSU over the Canes.
"They weren't fighting," Sam Cowart said. "They just quit. They came out and fought for a little while, and then they just lay down. They gave up."
"They didn't have that nasty edge," said Seminoles defensive end Andre Wadsworth, who starred at Miami's Florida Christian High. "That spitting, eye-poking, ankle-twisting, earhole-digging something."
That was one of the best drives home from Tally ever."
SOTU: If you had to pick the 3 best players to suit up for FSU, who would they be and why?
TN: Again, I farmed this one out to our historically-inclined writers, and FrankDNole came through.
"1. Charlie Ward, because he was so smooth and glided effortless, he was impossible to tackle, and made many defensive players look silly as they lunged and tackled nothing but air.
2. Ron Simmons, because I was fortunate enough to get to witness the most dominant NG to ever play the game up to that point. He could shake off a double team and still make the tackle. Nothing like him had been seen up to that point and very few since, although he would be undersized in today’s version of the game.
3. Deion Sanders, one of the best lock down corners before the term ever existed. The way he would set up opposing QB’s with what appeared to be lackadaisical effort, baiting the QB, then tearing out his heart. He was also a decent punt returner."
SOTU: Who wins this game? How do you see the game playing out and what is the score?
TN: The spread sits at around 17.5 at the time of my typing this. I think a lot (obviously) depends on whether or not Morris plays. We heard earlier in the week that he’s unlikely to go or will be limited if he does, then we hear this morning (Tuesday) that was walking with out an apparatus or much of a limp. So, that’s up in the air as of right now. I think it’s going to be a quality atmosphere and that the ‘Canes will be jacked up and ready to go, but so will FSU. It will be tough for UM to contain the Seminole running game, and the ‘Noles will run, run, and run some more. Though I think the Hurricanes will move the ball far better against the Seminoles if Morris plays than if he doesn’t, this is simply a very good defense. It sits at #4 in the nation in efficiency right now against a 51st ranked Miami group (http://footballoutsiders.com/
Thanks again to the guys over at Tomahawk Nation. We appreciate them taking the time to answer these question, as brutally honest as their answers may have been. Be sure to check out our answers to their questions later in the week.