This scene seems very familiar to me. A 7-3 (4-2 in ACC) Maryland team welcomes Florida St. to Byrd Stadium with a birth in the ACC championship game still up for grabs. It is virtually the same scenario that was played out in 2008. Unfortunately for the Terps, that game did not go so well, a 37-3 beat-down by the “Noles. Is there any reason to think this game will go much differently?
Sure there is excitement surrounding Maryland football again, and a belief that the young and injury depleted Terps can win this game. Heck, the good feelings even extend to the news that Ralph Friedgen will be coaching the Terps for at least one more year. But how does Maryland win this game with a rookie QB, behind a depleted offensive line and with a defense that gives up yardage in bunches and struggles to compete for 60 minutes?
The biggest problem facing the Terps on Saturday evening will be handling the defensive and offensive lines of the Seminoles. FSU has a distinct advantage on both fronts. While these are not the days when FSU used to have NFL talent at most of the skill positions, but their talent in the trenches will make the skill guys much better. Offensively, Maryland may need to get creative to keep FSU’s defensive front honest and off balance. The Terps have not been able to just line up against many solid defensive lines and just pound the ball on the ground. Can the Terps be mix draw plays reverses and screens to wide-outs and running backs and make FSU pay for being over aggressive.
Defensively, the Terps will have to contend with the return of QB Christian Ponder. Ponder is a talented passer and adequate runner. Maryland will need to disguise their coverages and find some way to pressure Ponder. If the Terps cannot force Ponder into some ill-advised throws, or if they allow him to break containment too often, it could be a long night on defense. The good thing about the Terps defense is that it keeps finding ways to create turnovers. It is imperative for the Terps to force some take-aways and give the offense some short-field opportunities.
Another variable that needs to go the Terps way against FSU is the play of Danny O’Brien. By all accounts O’Brien has played far above what anyone could expect from a freshman QB behind a below average offensive line. O’Brien did struggle in his first start against Clemson and was not sharp against Miami. He will be facing a similar defense on Saturday and it is imperative that he be accurate, not turn the ball over and make some plays down field. FSU’s secondary is not a strength and Maryland has plenty of talent at wide receiver to make them pay. The Terps are facing a lot of “ifs,” the biggest of which maybe whether or not they believe they can exorcise the demons against Florida St.