Behind Enemy Lines: Discussing FSU/NC State
In anticipation of Thursday night's throw-down between Florida State and North Carolina State we here at The Chop Shop sent a few questions to the guys at NC State blog Section Six and they sent some back to us. Wolpack guru Steven was kind enough to share his thoughts on the game, the two programs, and the ACC in general...
I'm not at the point where I think the ACC needs to do anything beyond what it already does (reprimands, suspensions). The officiating in general is not that serious a problem; plus, I doubt the efficacy of whatever the conference might do. You can say you're going to go out and get better officials, or part ways with those who have poor track records, but I wouldn't expect those things to result in much improvement. I agree with most people about the clock rules -- I hate that we're losing 10-15 plays per game. I never had a problem with the length of games. Starting the clock when the kicker makes contact with the ball on kickoffs is no big deal; starting the clock after a change of possession adds an unwanted wrinkle.
To quote Grandpa Simpson, "a little from Column A, a little from Column B". The Rice game was the third straight home game, and for a lot of FSU fans who live out of town (like me) it's expensive and draining to travel three weeks in a row. Plus, FSU fans are accustomed to a slightly higher level of competition. At the same time, a lot of fans are fed up with the offensive staff. There was a thread on Warchant a few weeks ago asking fans to boycott the games to protest the Jeff Bowden era, which may the dumbest idea since Fox hired Tim McCarver to announce post-season baseball. But maybe some fans are going through with it. FSU has great fans, but now everyone realizes that JB isn't getting it done - and possibly never will - yet we're stuck with him as long as Bobby's the coach. It's a frustrating situation for the fans - and for the players, if you heard any of Antonio Cromartie's recent comments. Everybody loves Bobby, but six straight years of declining offense are tough to take for fans that are used to offensive fireworks and National Championship races.
It's still too early to say. All we can do is hope, hope, hope that we have finally found our guy. The big question about Evans is: how much better will he get? Jay Davis and Marcus Stone didn't improve much with experience. During ESPN's telecast of the BC game, Ed Cunningham said he could picture Evans going on to have Rivers-type success, which I thought was a ridiculous thing to say at that point. I think FSU will get alot of pressure on Evans, making it hard for him to be effective. As for his long term prospects, I couldn't even begin to guess where his ceiling is. If I had to make a prediction, I'd say someone other than Evans will be starting next season.
Personally I would like to see more of X. The knock on Xavier has always been his grasp of the offense, but he's in his third year so that had better not be a problem anymore. He has physical gifts that Drew Weatherford can't match, but he doesn't seem to have Drew's poise. X is more of a high-risk/high-reward player at this point, but something is obviously wrong with the offense and if it's not working why not try something else? After his performance against Rice I think he earned more playing time, but this offensive staff is extremely cautious so if the game is close - which I think it will be - we probably won't see much more of Xavier until the Duke game.
Keep an eye on tight end Anthony Hill (#83), who leads the team in receptions and usually does a good job run-blocking as well. On the defensive side, defensive tackles Tank Tyler (#72) and DeMario Pressley (#92) are guys to watch. Linebacker Pat Lowery (#42) leads the team in tackles by a wide margin.
Jeff Bowden deserves all of the criticism he's received so far... his business card says "Offensive Coordinator" so if the offense stinks it's his fault. Having said that, no one on FSU's offensive staff has earned his paycheck this season. QB Coach Darryl Dickey hasn't received nearly enough blame for the job he'd done - or hasn't done - developing QB's at FSU, which was a QB factory once upon a time. Billy Sexton's RBs have been a major disappointment so far - especially Lorenzo Booker - with all the dancing behind the line. And OL coach Mark McHale has been the biggest disaster of all. The OL is better than last year, but they spent all summer working on the running game and FSU still hasn't found any consistency on the ground. Obviously the players have to raise their games, but this is a very young offense that seems to lack leadership - the loss of Leon Washington was bigger than people realize - and I think the burden is on the coaches to get them straightenend out.
In that the outcome of this game puts us one step closer to or further from a winning season, I suppose it could. Amato's job security isn't so tenuous that it hangs on any one game. If he wants to ease the pressure, there is a lot he needs to do beyond winning Thursday, like getting to a bowl and beating UNC along the way. Is retaining Amato the best thing for NC State? Good question! It's so good, I have to stall by repeating the question. I have no idea how to answer this right now; ask me again in December (sorry for the cop-out).
The most obvious problem for FSU is the loss of Tony Carter, who has been our best cover guy since his first game. Sophomore Michael Ray Garvin will take his place, with a freshman backing him up. Our most experienced CB is junior JR Bryant, and he just got benched for redshirt freshman Jaime Robinson. True freshman Myron Rolle will start at rover. Junior Free Safety Roger Williams should be the leader of the secondary, but so far he's been the weakest link on the whole defense. The entire secondary is a question mark right now so that would be my first guess. Unfortunately most of FSU's injuries have been at the Defensive Tackle position, to the point that Mickey Andrews moved our best DE inside to shore up the depth. So we might struggle against the pass, but at least our run-stoppers are all hurt. Yikes!
I could see this game playing out like the 2004 game,which you may remember if you managed not to fall asleep during it. Slow and low-scoring. With the issues we have with stopping the run, however, I think FSU's offense could end up pleasantly surprising 'Noles fans. I'll go with NC State 24, FSU 21. Just because.
I know I've sounded pretty negative in all my answers, but I actually have a lot of hope for the 'Noles this season. The offense looked night-and-day better against Rice - and yes, I realize it was Rice - with much better play-calling and a physical running attack that had been missing all season. Fortunately FSU has recruited well on defense and our coaches on that side of the ball are among the nation's best, so I don't think the defense will drop off too badly. I don't know if Daniel Evans is experienced enough to exploit FSU's young secondary, and the 'Noles still have a bunch of heat-seeking missiles at LB and they'll all be aimed at Andre Brown. While I fear that Jeff Bowden may revert to being...well, Jeff Bowden, I think the 'Noles pull it out 20-14.