college football picks B-Y-U at Florida State 9-18-10

September 17, 2010

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DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 18th, 3:30 p.m. (et).

FACTS & STATS: Site: Doak Campbell Stadium (82,300) — Tallahassee, Florida. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: BYU 1-0, FSU 1-0. Away Record: BYU 0-1, FSU 0-1. Neutral Record: BYU 0-0, FSU 0-0. Conference Record: BYU 0-1, FSU 0-0. Series Record: Florida State leads, 3-0.

GAME NOTES: A couple of high-profile programs coming off road losses try to get back on track on Saturday afternoon, as the Florida State Seminoles entertain the BYU Cougars in a non-conference battle at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.

In the case of the Seminoles, now under the direction of Jimbo Fisher who finally took over for the legendary Bobby Bowden, they opened up the 2010 slate with a 59-6 romp over Samford at home, but then the squad had to face reality and a matchup with 10th-ranked Oklahoma on the road. A rematch of the 2000 Orange Bowl that was claimed by the Sooners (13-2) and gave Oklahoma the national title, 17th-ranked FSU was completely dominated in Norman and because of the 47-17 loss, the Seminoles were dropped from the national rankings this week.

As for the Cougars, they were hoping to earn enough votes to get back into the AP poll, and their 23-17 season-opening win at home over Washington should have placed them on the right path. However, BYU not only had to hit the road in week two of the season, the program did so with a visit to Air Force and the Mountain West Conference battle was more than the Cougars could handle as they suffered the awkward 35-14 defeat in Colorado.

Last year FSU threw BYU for a loop in a 54-28 decision, which means the Cougars have lost all three of the previous meetings between the programs.

BYU picked up a pair of rushing touchdowns in the first quarter from JJ DiLuigi and quarterback Riley Nelson, but from there the game with Air Force belonged to the home team. The Cougars managed 221 yards rushing which, against any other opponent might sound impressive, but versus the academy is just a fraction of what the Falcons were able to muster. The real issue for the Cougars came with the quarterbacking combo of Nelson and Jake Heaps who were only able to convert 10-of-25 passes for 88 yards. The combined passing efficiency for BYU signal-callers is currently 104.6 and that has the unit ranked sixth in the league and 105th in the country heading into week three. Nelson’s 52.8 percent conversion rate and two touchdowns, not to mention his 140 yards and a TD on the ground might have him as the favorite at the position, but know that head coach Bronco Mendenhall has no reservations when it comes to changing his mode of attack and the personnel that he chooses to employ.

Most teams have trouble stopping the Falcons from producing on the ground, but the Cougars got a clear look at just how tough that offense can be when it is hitting on all cylinders. Air Force rolled up a hefty 409 yards and four touchdowns on the ground last weekend, numbers that the BYU defense are simply not accustomed to giving up. In fact, last season the Falcons posted just 212 yards and two scores in the annual meeting and the Cougars ended the campaign ranked second in the MWC and 21st in the country with only 110.2 ypg allowed rushing. While it is still early, BYU ranks last in the conference and 117th in the nation with 268.5 ypg allowed on the ground. Andrew Rich did everything he could to keep Air Force grounded so to speak, posting 14 tackles, two stops for loss and a forced fumble, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Rich heads the tackles list overall with 23 stops in two games, but he has yet to record a sack and the Cougars as a group have but two such stops at this stage.

Beating up on tiny Samford is easy when you’re a powerhouse program like Florida State, but it is against teams like Oklahoma where you earn respect and the Seminoles failed to do that last Saturday. Quarterback Christian Ponder was under pressure each time he stepped on the field, converting just 11-of-28 passes for 113 yards, serving up a pair of interceptions and being sacked four times. EJ Manuel managed to come up with 109 yards and a score later in the contest, but it didn’t much matter. Ponder has taken the majority of the snaps for the squad through two games and has four touchdowns to show for his efforts. While his 54.8 percent accuracy is decent, the fact that he has tossed three picks and Manual has hit on 66.7 percent of his tries just makes things more convoluted at the position. But no matter which signal- caller is handling the ball, the player he should be looking for is Lonnie Pryor who has already provided huge returns on his three receptions, having scored two touchdowns.

By the time the middle of the third quarter had rolled around in Norman, the ‘Noles had no idea what had hit them as they trailed by 37 points and eventually fell by 30 even after the TD tallied by FSU on the final play of the game. Oklahoma came up with 487 yards of total offense and took advantage of every opportunity the Seminoles afforded it because there was very little pressure applied at the line of scrimmage and that permitted the Sooners to pick their spots. Playing such polar opposites during the first two weeks of the season makes it hard to find out the try character and ability of a team like the Seminoles. They are certainly not as dominant as they were against Samford and by no means should they be taken apart as viciously as they were versus Oklahoma, so perhaps this game with BYU will provide a better barometer. Given the uncertainty at quarterback for the Cougars, this might be a good opportunity to improve the pass defense which right now has the Seminoles ranked 11th in the ACC and 110th in the country.

Both of these teams are shadows of what they were a season ago and while BYU might be seeking revenge for an awful game in 2009, the Cougars will have a tough time taking care of the Seminoles this time around as well.

FREE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS :  FSU -10

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