coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
On 08/24/2013 08:57 PM in NCAA Football

College Football Preview: (11) Florida State vs. Pittsburgh Week One College Football Preview: (11) Florida State vs. Pittsburgh

Monday night football is always dominated by the National Football League (NFL) but until the pros kick off the season, the college football schedule will be more than happy to take over the spotlight. That is why the game to watch for Monday night football will feature the 11th ranked Florida State Seminoles against the Pitt Panthers.

Florida State vs. Pittsburgh Odds: The Seminoles are not only a favorite to win the season prime time opener against the Panthers but they are also favorites to win the ACC and on the short list of teams that can win it all this season. Because of this preseason hype the Noles opened up as (-7.5) favorites and that point spread has quickly been bet up to (-10) in several highly respectable offshore sportsbooks.

This will be the first ACC game ever for the Panthers who plan on making it a special event. They recently announced that they will be retiring the jersey of NFL superstar wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald.

In fact it was the former Pitt stars father who made the announcement via Twitter.

The biggest problem is that Fitzgerald will not be on the field to take on the Noles who will be vastly superior.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher is ready to show that his team is deserving of national attention as a contender for the championship. What better place to show off their skills than a prime time event?

Jameis Winston and Jacob Coker will be ready to go as they have displayed some poise as quarterback during scrimmages under pressure and exotic blitzes. Although the job is still “up in the air” it won’t really matter as the Noles are a difficult team for the Panthers to open up conference play against.

If the sports betting trends are an indication of how the game will turn out, the Noles should be on upset alert. The Seminoles are 0-6 against the spread (ATS) in their last 6 road games, 1-6 ATS in the last 7 games in September and 1-4 ATS in the last five conference games.

The Panthers are a very nice 4-1 ATS in the last five home games, but they struggle to start off the season. The Panthers are a disgusting 6-13-1 ATS in the last 20 games in the month of September.

The Panthers will be very excited to retire the jersey of Fitzgerald and start conference play in the ACC, but it will be a tall order to upset the Seminoles.


coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
08/25/2013 04:08 PM

Bobby Bowden thinks college football pundits have "underestimated" coach Jimbo Fisher's team, pointing to the Seminoles' potential at quarterback and prowess on defense. "I really have a good feeling about FSU. I think the defense is going to be good enough to help cover up mistakes the young quarterbacks might make," Bowden said.

FSU enters its season opener at Pittsburgh ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press preseason poll and No. 12 in the preseason USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll. The Seminoles were also selected by the media to finish second behind Clemson in the ACC's Atlantic Division.

Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston was named the Seminoles' starter over sophomore Jacob Coker following Friday's practice. Bowden has heard positive reports on the duo. "I know people who have watched practices and they think both are big-time quarterbacks," Bowden said. "Maybe it's too early, they are young, but I understand both have big-time potential."

That's also why Bowden believes FSU's defense and its new attacking style under first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will help set the season's tone. Bowden specifically points to the Seminoles' interior defensive line, a unit that features veterans Timmy Jernigan and Demonte McAllister. "He has some big, tough (defensive) tackles," Bowden said. "The hardest thing in the world to find are defensive tackles, and I think he has some. He has talent in the secondary and linebacker, too. If they can play the best they can play, they are going to be good enough. But you don't always do that."

Bowden also tabbed Alabama as his favorite to win a third consecutive national championship and fourth in five years. But he credited Fisher's ability to keep pace with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban on the recruiting trail. "Jimbo is the only guy I have seen who can recruit equal to Alabama and those folks up there," Bowden said. "He's one of the few. His staff does an excellent job (recruiting)." And Bowden, of course, believes that recruiting success will translate into on-the-field success. "I think they are going to be really good," Bowden said. "I think people have underestimated them."

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
08/26/2013 07:20 PM

The countdown clock in the weight room at the Pittsburgh Panthers complex is unavoidable. For months, it has relentlessly subtracted the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the program's baptism into the ACC on national television against No. 11 Florida State on Labor Day night. And in the process, it has ended up driving the Panthers a little bit crazy. "Whenever you see the clock winding down, it gives you the jitters like it's almost game time," tight end J.P. Holtz said. "It's just going to be a great atmosphere." One coach Paul Chryst knows he can't duplicate in practice, not that he's trying anyway. Though he's a creature of habit, Chryst knows not all openers are created equal. While 11 more games remain regardless of what happens next Monday, he's aware the Panthers will never get another opportunity to make a first impression. I do believe games like this are why guys want to come to Pittsburgh," Chryst said. "When guys think of college football, they think of games like these."

Even if it puts Pitt in the difficult position of having to play one of the most talented teams in the country without so much as a warmup. While Chryst is pleased with the way his team has responded during training camp, the Panthers remain very much a work in progress.

Starting quarterback Tom Savage hasn't played a live down in nearly three years. The running backs are banged up and the offensive line includes two guys making the first starts of their career.

Still, Holtz wouldn't have it any other way. "I would rather start off with all big games to tell you the truth," Holtz said. "That's why you come to play Division I football. You come to play the best of the best."

Though the Seminoles are a more than decade removed from their spot as perennial national title contenders, they remain one of the most dangerous programs in the country. One of the quickest too. Replicating Florida State's athleticism is difficult. While the coaching staff will do what it can to get the Panthers prepared, Chryst admitted that, at some point, it's going to be up to the players to figure it out. "Ask a freshman in camp, and they'll say the speed of the game is faster (in college)," Chryst said. "When you're playing an opponent with a lot of speed at different positions like Florida State, the best thing you can do is go with your best players and then adjust. There's a lot of adjusting in first games."

And, the Panthers hope, a lot of growth too.

Chryst's arrival gave Pitt needed stability at the top, but he spent most of his first season trying to get a handle on his roster while figuring out his personnel. It led to an uneven 6-7 year in 2012 in which the Panthers never once found a way to ease their record over .500. The feeling-out process is over. Chryst has earned his team's trust, and his players have earned his respect. "It feels a lot different than last year, the whole team, the whole atmosphere," Holtz said. "We've had a lot of position changes and a lot of new guys on the team stepping up."

The group will step onto Heinz Field as one next Monday. Picked to finish fifth in the ACC Coastal Division, the Panthers know critics aren't expecting much. That's fine. The path to respectability is pretty straightforward. Sure, all season openers are different, but Chryst points out how to win football games rarely changes. If Pitt can take care of the ball, stop the run and not be overwhelmed by the stage, the Panthers believe they'll be right there at the end. "We know what we can do," Holtz said. "A lot of people don't have faith in us, but us as a group we all have faith in each other."

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
08/27/2013 03:29 PM

The first three years of his college career have not been at all what Christian Green was expecting. He arrived at Florida State as a five-star recruit, an athletic high school quarterback who was expected to make the transition to big-time wide receiver. It hasn’t happened yet.

After showing promise as a redshirt freshman in 2011, Green all but disappeared from the Seminoles’ gameplan in 2012, catching just three passes all year. “It was tough,” Green said. “It was definitely tough for me. I just tried to stay positive. It’s not easy, but I feel like I had the right people in my corner supporting me and encouraging me and stuff like that. You never know what’s going to happen around you, so you never know when you’re number is going to be called. It was tough, but I just had to overcome it.”

Green started four games for the Seminoles two years ago and finished the year with 26 catches for 450 yards. He caught seven passes for 77 yards against Clemson and then followed that up with a four-catch, 102-yard performance the following game at Wake Forest. When he hauled in a 59-yard pass in the first half against Duke the next week it looked like the Seminoles had found a new weapon in the wide receiver corps. But after finishing the year with the third-most receiving yards on the team, Green’s production plummeted dramatically in 2012. He didn’t catch a single pass in the final 11 games of the season.

Three senior wideouts the Seminoles were expecting to have in 2013 are no longer available. Greg Dent has been indefinitely suspended, Willie Haulstead is academically ineligible and Scooter Haggins is out for the year with an injury. Florida State now has just seven scholarship receivers on the team and three of those are true freshmen.

So the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Green knows he has a chance to shine again. Much like he did when he stepped in as a freshman for a receiving corps depleted by injuries. Said head coach Jimbo Fisher: “I’m very happy for him. He’s a great young man, and he had a good year two years ago. And hopefully he can come back to that same level and I think better.”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
08/28/2013 02:04 PM

Jumbo Fisher's three seasons in Tallahassee have seen the Seminoles rise to the top of the ACC once again. In 2012, FSU finished the year at 12-2, knocking off Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game (21-15) and disposing of BCS-buster Northern Illinois (31-10) in the Orange Bowl.

Paul Chryst has been charged with ushering in Pittsburgh's ACC era. He was tabbed the new head coach a year ago, the Panthers' last in the Big East. Chryst led his team to a 6-7 record in a season littered by close losses. The team finished the regular season at 6-6, but fell to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

The Panthers actually hold a 5-3 series advantage over the Seminoles and have won the last three meetings. However, these two teams haven't met on the football field since 1983.

A solid season under center for EJ Manuel propelled him into the NFL, as a first-round selection of the Buffalo Bills. Despite the loss of one of the ACC's top signal-callers, Florida State remains optimistic on offense, thanks to all the hype surrounding redshirt freshman Jameis Winston (6-4, 220). It was expected, but Fisher didn't name Winston the starter until last week, as the youngster was in a heated battle for the spot with Jacob Coker.

"Just a little more consistency ...for a longer period of time," Fisher said, when asked why Winston won the job. "Like I said, Jake is ready to play, too. Jameis, I thought -- as we ranked and talked about it as a staff -- did some different things. Both of them really started to take command of things as camp wore on. I thought Jameis did a little better job in the beginning. You're being close; you're splitting hairs when you really get down to it. That's not 'coach talk' or anything else. That's the truth."

The quarterback's ability to thrive early on is enhanced by one of the top offensive lines in the country, highlighted by four returning starters in center Bryan Stork (6-4, 312), guards Tre Jackson (6-4, 327) and Josue Matias (6-6, 326) and tackle Cameron Erving (6-6, 310), all of which have All- America potential.

There is talent at the rest of the skill positions as well. The backfield is led by the one-two punch of tailbacks Devonta Freeman (660 yards, eight TDs) and James Wilder Jr. (635 yards, 11 TDs). The receiving corps also returns a couple of reliable contributors, highlighted by junior Rashad Greene (6-0, 175), who earned Second-Team All-ACC last year with 57 receptions, for 741 yards and six TDs. Junior tight end Nick O'Leary (6-3, 240) could see his role expand with a new signal-caller under center.

Strong defense was the driving force behind Florida State's resurgence last season, and that success was enough to land Mark Stoops the head coaching job at Kentucky. Now with only four starters returning on that side of the football in 2013, unproven talent must step up and deliver. The biggest hit area on defense is up front, where standout ends Bjoern Werner, Tank Carradine and Brandon Jenkins have all moved on to the NFL. Werner and Carradine combined for 24 sacks in 2012 and finding that kind of production won't be easy. Sophomore Mario Edwards Jr. could be vital in that regard, as the 6-3, 282-pound sophomore showed flashes of strong play as a true freshman in 2012.

The Seminoles must replace playmakers in the back seven as well, with the most glaring loss being standout cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Lamarcus Joyner (51 tackles, one interception) will anchor the play in the secondary, while fellow senior Christian Jones (team-high 95 tackles) headlines the linebacking corps.

Heading into the ACC, the hope is that Chryst can build off a strong offensive season, especially passing the football. That will be easier said than done however, as quarterback Tino Sunseri has moved on. Rutgers transfer Tom Savage (6-5, 230) gets the nod under center to start the year, but redshirt freshman Chad Voytik (6-1, 205) could see playing time as well.

Regardless of who is throwing the football, they will be looking for veteran wideout Devin Street down the field. Street (6-4, 190) is a game-changer on the outside and is coming off a season in which he hauled in 73 passes, for 975 yards and five touchdowns. Chryst is very happy to have a player of Street's caliber to lean on. "It's great to have him back. Obviously Devin is a very good player. He did a lot of really good things, but I'm excited because I still believe he can continue to get better. He realizes what he's got in the value of Coach (Bobby) Engram coaching him day in and day out. Certainly Devin is going to be one of those guys we need to play at a high level and lead at a high level. It's a tremendous feeling having Devin here."

The Panthers could also look to 6-2 freshman Tyler Boyd in the passing game. A smooth receiver with a great feel for the game, Boyd comes to Pittsburgh following an impressive high school career, where he amassed 5,755 yards and 117 touchdowns.

To achieve balance however, Chryst must find someone to step into the void left by Ray Graham's departure, after he put up 1,042 yards and 11 TDs last season, en route to All-Big East First-Team honors. Junior Isaac Bennett (4.9 ypc) played sparingly last season and will get the first crack at earning the lion's share of the carries.

The defensive side of the football will see less atrophy, with the return of nine starters. The unit as a whole, was extremely stingy in 2012, giving up just 330.5 yards of total offense. A veteran-laden defensive front is led by senior tackle Aaron Donald (6-0, 275), who posted 64 tackles last season, with 11 TFL and 5.5 sacks. He will be flanked by fellow senior tackle Tyrone Ezell (6-4, 300), who had 39 tackles and 3.5 sacks last year.

A strength of the unit last year was the secondary, which returns three of its four starters, highlighted by Second-Team All-Big East safety Jason Hendricks, who had a huge season, posting 90 total tackles and six interceptions. Senior cornerback K'Waun Williams (5-10, 195) is another ball hawk, finishing last year with 47 tackles and four picks.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
08/29/2013 02:56 PM

Florida State's depth chart for the Pitt game has been released, and hoo boy, are there some interesting bits.

The most obvious, is that Florida State is going to use its 3-4 or 5-2 look much earlier than anticipated. This makes some sense, given that Pitt is a team that wants to run the football and throw off play action. The look has been practiced at various times in practice (it pays to read our practice coverage), but Florida State had maintained that it was not moving to a 3-4 immediately (recruiting tells a different story about future years).

Dan Hicks has normally been playing at end opposite of Mario Edwards, Jr. In this look, which actually employs three defensive tackles (Goldman is the third), and two ends, they'll continue to be opposite of each other. Florida State had practiced the alignment a good bit, but had also practices 4-3, 3-4, 3-3-5, 4-2-5, and 3-2-6 alignments, plus a look with seven defensive backs.

FSU definitely won't be in this defense for the whole game. Florida State will use this look to match Pitt's 12 personnel (1 back and 2 tight ends). It (when) Pitt decides to use more receivers, the Seminoles will adjust. But man, this is an enormous front seven from this alignment -- 1897 pounds for the starters, which is one of the biggest college defenses in years.

It's also interesting to note that Tyler Hunter is listed as the starter at strong safety, while Terrence Brooks is listed as free. Karlos Williams is listed as backing up Brooks. All three will play substantial minutes. The true surprise is that FSU went ahead and listed its depth chart as a base 3-4 look.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
08/30/2013 01:44 PM

When the Pittsburgh Panthers were asked over the summer what the biggest difference was when they watched film of future Atlantic Coast Conference opponents compared to teams they faced in the Big East, their answer rarely deviated...speed.

Even Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst has agreed that speed appears to be one of primary distinction between the leagues. Still, Chryst has also acknowledged that speed is only one challenge his team is expected to face when it opens its inaugural season in the ACC against No. 11 Florida State at Heinz Field on Monday night.

The defending conference champion Seminoles feature a new starter at quarterback in redshirt freshman Jameis Winston and a defense that, by all accounts, will showcase a new, aggressive look under first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. "Oviously I think they’ve got a lot of really good players. I think a lot of people — and really, talk about their speed, but I think they’re good football players. And part of it is they’re confident in what they’re doing, and I think they play fast.”

The Panthers will rely on a deep, experienced defense to slow the Seminoles. They return eight starters from last year’s unit that ranked 17th nationally in total defense (330 yards per game).

Key players include preseason first-team All-ACC safety Jason Hendricks and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. As many as 20 players are expected to be in the defensive rotation against FSU.

While the Panthers will face an unknown in Winston in terms of his lack of game experience, the quarterback’s infectious personality and athletic abilities are well-documented.

Pitt players say they have tried to compare Winston to other mobile quarterbacks they have faced in the past. “We’ve just got to come out, hit him in the mouth as soon as we can,” Pitt defensive end Bryan Murphy told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Show him we’re here, we’re not messing around.”
Winston aside, the Seminoles also return plenty of proven skill and a tested offensive line that helped FSU average 39.3 points (10th nationally) and 470.8 yards last season.

The opener will tell if the Panthers are ready to compete with the elite of the ACC. FSU is Pitt’s highest-ranked season-opening opponent since 1982, when the Panthers hosted No. 5 North Carolina. “I’m anxious to find out — we’ve got a lot of guys that are either in new roles or first time playing,” Chryst said. We’re going to find out a lot about who we are. I’m excited, appreciative of what this team has done to get to this point. And I think, as a coach, I’m excited to be able to go out and play a game with them and start this season.”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
08/31/2013 09:25 PM

Florida State is Florida State, which means Pitt isn't facing a typical season-opening opponent Monday night at Heinz Field. FSU is No. 11 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll after finishing 10th last year and 17th in 2010.

Playing the first ACC game in school history at home should help Pitt compete against the Seminoles, ESPN broadcaster Rece Davis said. ThePanthers, an 11-point underdog, are coming off back-to-back 6-7 seasons and seeking their first winning campaign in three years.

“I actually think that Florida State will have a tough time, particularly running the ball,” said Davis, who, with David Pollack and Jesse Palmer, will call the 8 p.m. game. “Pitt's going to be physical and tough. It will be a challenge for Florida State's offense in the early going. You get into the fourth quarter and give yourself a chance, sometimes crazy things happen,” Davis added. “You don't have to be the best team in the country. You just have to be the best team in the stadium that night.”

Pressed to make a prediction, Davis picked FSU to win.

“I think Pitt's going to hang in there and make it a tough game. But I would probably be less than forthright if I told you that Pitt will win,” Davis said. “I think Florida State is being a little undervalued nationally. I have Florida State picked to win the ACC, and I'm not going to be surprised if they play in the national championship game. From talking to Florida State's players, I definitely think Pitt has their full attention. And I don't know how well Pitt's offense is going to move the ball.”

Regarding Pitt's offense, Davis is eager to watch senior quarterback Tom Savage, who reinvented himself following success early in his career at Rutgers. Two schools later, Savage will direct the Panthers' offense.

“I remember when Savage came out of high school how highly regarded he was,” Davis said, “what kind of tools he has in terms of being able to throw. (Pitt coach) Paul Chryst has always done a marvelous job of putting his quarterback in position to build confidence.”

Davis believes FSU's superior team speed will be a determining factor. While the Panthers always have faced opponents with fast players, the ACC in general — and FSU in particular — offers new challenges.

“It's not that there weren't skill players in the old Big East,” Davis said. “I just think they're going to see more of them on a more consistent basis, week in and week out, in the ACC.”

Davis appreciates how Chryst is building Pitt's program in his image. Citing how Chryst handled the cases of Rushel Shell, Tra'Von Chapman and Ronald Jones, Davis believes Chryst's hard-line approach with those players enhances the rebuilding process.

“When you are a coach establishing your program, there is no one player that can be more important than you establishing that you are running the show,” Davis said. “Not to be some tough, dictator-type. But your need to establish boundaries, set the tone for who's in charge. I think Paul is the kind of guy who will adhere to his standards, who will not compromise. The program in the long run will be much better for it."

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/01/2013 01:34 PM

For Florida State to win: It’s simple, the Seminoles have more talent. Heinz Field could be electric if fans decide to pack the place on the first ACC game. If that happens, FSU needs to block out any distractions and just execute its game and win.

For Pittsburgh to win: As bad as Pitt football has been for the past 20 years, the Panthers have pulled off some huge wins. Defense has always been the key to those wins. So Pitt’s defense needs to play its best game since it shut down an explosive West Virginia squad 13-9 in 2007.

Key Player (FSU): Dual-threat quarterback Jameis Winston is imposing at 6-foot-4, 227 pounds and has a strong arm. However, he’s a freshman and youngsters make mistakes. If he can control his emotions and let the game come to him this could be the start of something really special.

Key Player (Pitt): Much-traveled quarterback Tom Savage gets one final shot to prove he’s a big-time performer. As a true freshman at Rutgers, Savage completed 52 percent of his passes for 2,211 yards and 14 touchdowns. His experience and moxie could be just what Pitt needs to pull off an upset.

Key Stat: The Panthers have won the last three meetings between the two schools, but they haven’t played since Pitt won 17-16 in 1983.

Three keys for Florida State

1- Steady play at quarterback
With redshirt freshman Jameis Winston earning the starting nod, Florida State likely will try to keep things simple with the passing game, at least early in the season. And the good news for the Seminoles is that they have plenty of talent on defense and in the running game to carry the load. If Winston can simply avoid major mistakes, FSU should be able to win most games on its schedule.

2 - Avoid the upset
There haven't been a lot of negatives in Jimbo Fisher's first three years as head coach. He's won an ACC title, a BCS game and had a national-best 11 players selected in April's NFL Draft. But if there has been one complaint from fans, it has been the upset losses — in 2010, it was North Carolina and North Carolina State; in 2011, it was Wake Forest and Virginia; and last year it was at N.C. State.

3 - Create turnovers
As good as the FSU defense was in 2012 — and it ranked second in the country in yards allowed — it didn't make a lot of game-changing plays. The Seminoles had just 11 interceptions last season. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is expected to create more pressure with exotic blitz packages.