Tomorrow, Florida State plays west of the Mississippi for the first time in approximately 50 years as they take on the BYU Cougars. Considering thes last two games for BYU featured a virtually-impossible-to-beat opponent and a virtually-impossible-to-lose-to opponent, I think it's pretty clear that this matchup falls somewhere in between.
Florida state is good, but not great. I would take some time here to attempt to analyze the matchups, but unfortunately I was linked to an excellent analysis of the game from a Florida State blogger who has done more research on the matchup than anyone who works for a TV station or newspaper. Seriously, it's amazing.
So I'm going to link to it and just point out a few areas I felt were spot-on.
In any case, FSU likes to line up guys in crazy spots, with everyone standing up and only onw down lineman. FSU got the idea from summer trips to New England and Pittsburgh. It's very tough for the offense to know who is blitzing and who is in coverage. The Giants under Bill Belichek and Parcells used this to perfection against the Buffalo Bills in super bowl XLii in Tampa. Jim Kelley's shotgun offense was limited by the uncertainty. Against an offense that is based on automatic throws "if he is here, I throw here", FSU must create some uncertainty as to the QB's reads, and at the very least, must make him choose the difficult throws on his decision tree. The key though is to make BYU 1-dimensional. A good team will run right at the prowler if a defense employs it in a non obvious passing down situation.
Elsewhere in the article he mentions BYU's (perceived?) over-reliance on the pass. And frankly, he's not that impressed with Hall.
Remember how BYU isn't very good throwing in long situations? Most teams aren't. Hall doesn't have the arm to drive the ball downfield into tight windows. His ball flutters and often hangs. If FSU can stop BYU's run, or if BYU just falls in love with the pass, FSU will have a chance to break out their prowler formation.
Boy, that sounds familiar.
The goal is to force the Cougars into beating FSU through the use of low percentage plays. A 5-yard slant against loose zone coverage is a high percentage play. BYU is so good at throwing that stuff that if FSU gives them that, they stand almost no chance of stopping the Cougars. But Max Hall really isn't much or a deep-ball thrower. Sure, every QB can loft the ball downfield, but I am talking about the more challenging throws. I'm talking about out-routes, skinny posts, etc. If BYU is going to throw all over Florida State, the 'Noles better be sure that they force the Cougars to do it via low percentage passes.
I have to say this guy has done his homework. I couldn't come up with a better gameplan on how to beat BYU if I tried. Stop BYU's running game, tempt them to pass, pass, pass and then force Hall into making long throws.
Now, theory is a long way from execution, and I'm not sure the Seminole defense can pull this off all that effectively, especially if you consider that they are on the road, in what will be a very hostile environment, at an elevation they are not used to playing at.
The blogger's analysis of BYU's defense is very reliant on looking at last year's team, which was terrible on D. As such, he is very down on the Cougar ability in that area. Of course, there are new starters at most positions, and these guys held Oklahoma to 13 points and smothered Tulane. I think they're a bit better than the writer anticipates.
The first game I ever watched as an official BYU student was BYU @ Florida State in 2000. The Dynamic Duo of Brett Engemann and Charlie Peterson were unfortunately not enough to overcome the soon-to-be Heisman winner Chris Weinke, who threw for 318 yards and BYU lost 29-3. I'd like to see a Cougar win here, if just for the revenge factor.
So as always, we'll see. I see the Cougars winning by at least a touchdown, maybe two. That said, if FSU can pull off the strategy outlined in the link above, we're in deep trouble. Give the whole thing a read if you're a football fan... there's a lot of good stuff in there.