TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Fourth-ranked Florida State appears to have fixed the problems with its running game - in a big way. The Seminoles (4-0) rank second in the ACC in rushing this season after finishing 10th last year. They've already matched last season's total of 20 rushing touchdowns in just four games. Senior Chris Thompson's comeback from a serious back injury and the emergence of sophomore James Wilder Jr. behind a rebuilt offensive line has created the possibility of the school having its first 1,000-yard rusher since Warrick Dunn achieved it in three straight seasons between 1994 and 1996.
South Florida (2-2) gets its shot Saturday at slowing down the Seminoles, who are averaging 56.2 points a game as they prepare for their first road test this season. The Seminoles stormed back from a two-touchdown deficit last Saturday to defeat Clemson 49-37 with the offense putting up 667 yards. Wilder and Thompson had a hand in 256 of those. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Wilder's ability to run over and carry tacklers reminds many of former Seminole star Greg Jones, who went on to NFL stardom with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 5-8, 187-pound Thompson, who is similar to Dunn in some ways, doesn't shy from contact but combines breakaway speed and shiftiness that have produced five scoring runs of more than 70 yards in his career and a 10.8 yards-per-carry average this season.
Add Manuel's 7.5 yards per carry and Devonta Freeman's 6.4 average as the third tailback in the rotation and the Seminoles are a run-first team despite a bevy of talented receivers. Freeman, who got his chance following Thompson's injury in the fifth game last season, led the Seminoles in rushing with 579 yards as a freshman. Thompson needs to average 80 yards in the remaining eight regular season games to reach the 1,000-yard plateau and he's likely to get more than his per game average of eight carries as the Seminoles settle into their schedule. He had 15 against Clemson. South Florida is coming off a demoralizing 31-27 loss at Ball State last week - its second consecutive defeat - as the Bulls allowed the winning touchdown pass with 1:02 left. It will also be facing a Florida State team that may have revenge on its mind after losing the only previous meeting between these programs.
Then a redshirt freshman making his first career start due to a season-ending injury to Matt Grothe, senior quarterback B.J. Daniels led South Florida to a stunning 17-7 road victory over the Seminoles on Sept. 26, 2009, rushing for 126 yards and passing for 215 and two touchdowns on just eight completions. Daniels threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions last week, leading his team in rushing for the second straight game with 75 yards on 14 carries.
While this is a trap game for FSU, coming off the emotional Clemson win, and USF's biggest home game in its history, do not expect the Noles to be too rattled. This is a veteran team with many strong personalities all working towards one goal. During the Clemson game FSU took the Tigers best shot and even though some were flustered, the team rallied and punched back. Jimbo Fisher and his staff won't tolerate a dropoff in performance, and the gap between these two programs has never been wider. Too much of a physical advantage on both sides of the ball, and the Noles win this one decisively in the second half going away. Do we expect a near 8 TD win like in week 3 when FSU whitewashed conference foe Wake Forest? Likely not however we don't feel we'll need to break a sweat in crunch time. Best of luck however you play!