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First Look At Florida State

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Time to finally put the Trojans in the rear view mirror and start thinking seriously about our next game, which is shaping up (yet again) to be another pivotal game for Karl Dorrell. As mentioned all last week, the huge win over Southern Cal is not going to mean much in the greater scheme of things if UCLA doesn't close the deal against Bobby Bowden's Seminoles.

Florida State, of course, is one of the marquee programs in the nation, that is going through some rough times (with no end in sight considering Papa Bowden is not giving any hints of retiring). While the Bruins are coming into this game on an incredible high, the `Noles are coming in stumbling and bumbling, qualifying for this third-tier bowl game with a nail biting home win over Western Michigan. Sportsline on these Seminoles turning point of the season:

Incredibly, the Seminoles did not become bowl eligible until holding off Western Michigan (28-20) on Nov. 11. And it took an interception return for a touchdown by LB Lawrence Timmons in the second half to assure the win. The Seminoles also had to thwart a final desperation heave in the end zone on the final play.
So this FSU team is not the PrimeTime's FSU team we grew accustomed to in the 80s and 90s when they seemingly finished in the top-5 every season, featuring sensational athletes on both sides of the ball.

The Bruins should win this game given they are the ones coming in with all the momentum, and they are going to play in front of what should amount to a home crowd in front of thousands of alums from Northern California.

However, if they go into this game with the same attitude they went into facing Fresno State and Wyoming, it will become yet another embarrassment, and will completely destroy all the momentum generated on December 2, 2006, putting Dorrell on the hot seat.

And the Bruins cannot afford to take the Noles lightly given their incredible defense and how anemic our offense has been (even during the 3 game winning streak during when Dorrell was supposedly calling the shots) since the first game of the season. Here is a first look into the statistical matchup between Mickey Andrews' defense and Karl Dorrell's offense:

Bruin Offense v. Seminoles Defense

Bruin Offense 06 Rank Per Game Seminoles Defense 06 Rank Per Game
Rushing Offense 74 124.42 Rushing Defense 8 84.08
Pass Offense 61 197.00 Pass Defense 52 194.83
Pass Eff. Offense 77 118.05 Pass Eff. Defense 34 115.86
Total Offense 76 321.42 Total Defense 15 278.92
Scoring Offense 70 22.67 Scoring Defense 34 19.25

I think it will be interesting to see who gets the start on offense. If Cowan is completely recovered from his partial concussion (and the coaches should always use utmost precaution in this type of injury) then he may get the start. And right now he is figures into the key matchup of this game (at least according to Sportsline):

UCLA QB Patrick Cowan vs. FSU LB Buster Davis -- The Seminoles leading tackler, a senior playing his final game, will be zeroed in on Cowan. But he shouldn't be too focused. The Bruins could use multiple quarterbacks in this game.
Cowan had a heroic performance against the Trojans. He made things happen in those QB scrambles which netted him 55 yards. But I imagine this time the Seminole defense will have a spy in place looking for those QB scrambles (should Cowan start). So if Cowan gets the start he will have to connect via air more consistently to keep sustain our offensive drives. Will he get it done against this FSU defense? If he doesn?t then the coaches should not hesitate to put in Olson and give him his shot. Then again Olson may be starting if Cowan?s concussion issues are not resolved in next few weeks.

In terms of running game Bruins are hurting. I believe Bell is suspended and Williams was on crutches during the celebration on December 2nd. So not sure if they are going to be available. Markey will have to carry the load with support from Moline, and perhaps even Carew? Once again hopefully the coaches can devise an offensive game plan that will use the speed of FSU defense to our advantage, by calling draw plays, picking up chunks of real estate via ground attack when they are least expecting it. Again just like we did against the Trojans we just need enough ground game from our RBs, that will keep the Trojan LBs honest. In other words we will need a good mix of pass/run calls on first downs, and not be so damn predictable as we have been most of this season.

If the offense can put up 21 or more points on the board, Bruins will probably able to put together a pretty impressive win. That?s because we expect Coach Walker?s defense to just manhandle and annihilate the Florida State offense. The numbers here:

Bruin Defense v. Seminoles Offense

Bruin Defense 06 Rank Per Game Seminoles Offense 06 Rank Per Game
Rushing Defense 12 89.92 Rushing Offense 103 95.83
Pass Defense 83 214.92 Pass Offense 38 226.17
Pass Eff. Defense 57 122.70 Pass Eff. 72 120.09
Total Defense 33 304.83 Total Offense 73 322.00
Scoring Defense 27 17.92 Scoring Offense 54 25.08

This should not be a contest. We expect our front line to just punish the weak FSU running attack which is led by much hyped blue chip recruit from Southern California, Lorenzo Booker. I think Hickman, Brown, Harwell and co. will make sure Booker regrets leaving the Golden State. And as for containing the passing game, even FSU fans are not sure who is going to start between Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee. Neither of them have impressive numbers although Lee seems to be the better athlete. From the few FSU games I have seen living in the East Coast, Weatherford reminds me of Cory Paus. And that?s a good thing for Bruin defense.

FSU's Cory Paus, AP Photo/Steve Cannon

Weatherford doesn?t come across as a smart, cerebral leader, who seems to make all kinds of stupid decisions against teams with aggressive defense. Xavier makes less mistakes (relatively speaking). He is more mobile. But I don?t see why Davis and Hickman should have any problem containing him if he gets the chance.

To be fair FSU?s offense (which is just tiny bit less anemic than Dorrell?s West Coast offense) do have some weapons. They have three receivers with more than 30 receptions:

Seminole Receivers

Name Receptions Receiving Yds. TDs ACC Rank
Chris Davis 46 651 4 5
Gregg Carr 30 531 11 9
De?Cody Fagg 31 371 1 23

Well if Van, Brown, Horton, McPick and co. bottled up Jarrett and Smith, I don?t see why our DBs should not be able to limit the FSU receivers. If the Bruin defense brings in the same intensity as they did against Southern Cal and the last three games of this season (and they should if they want to make the case the world of college football needs to take Dorrell?s program seriously), then this matchup between the FSU O and Bruin D should turn out to be a total mismatch, and propel UCLA to it?s second bowl win in a row.

That should set up Dorrell for a season in 2007 during which he will finally have to live up to his other half of the promise when he took over five years ago: win the Pac-10.

The first thing is first though. Bruins need to the beat the Noles to keep all the bad vibes, questions at bay, and keep the momentum going, setting them up for that expected BCS run in 2007. We will have more on the Noles in the coming days. If you have more insight then fire away in the comment thread. As mentioned in the title this just a ?first look? on Bobby Bowden?s football program, which is not quiet what it used to be during their glory days of 80s and 90s.