Florida State Rush Offense vs Oklahoma State Rush Defense
Florida State returns 4 of 5 offensive lineman from a team that averaged a nation’s tenth best 5.63 yards per carry and averaged 203.14 yards per game on the ground. Cameron Erving, Tre Jackson, Josue Matias, and Bobby Hart bring a combined 110 starts into the game and the newcomer, Center Austin Barron, isn’t exactly new to this as the senior has played in numerous games and made 4 starts over his career. They have the size and strength to run a power run game and the athleticism to lead on the stretch and outside zone plays.
Florida State did lose Devonte Freeman, last years leading rusher and the first 1,000 yard back in 17 years for the Noles, but it returns some electric runners. Karlos Williams spent his first offseason fully in the running back role and rushed for 730 yards on just 91 carries, good for an 8.02 yards per carry average which was 6th best in the nation last year. His combination of size and sprinters speed is downright scary and Nole fans are excited to see what he can do as the number one guy now. Mario Pender finally gets his chance to show what he can do on the field and Dalvin Cook has impressed Jimbo Fisher as much as any freshman to come along recently. Throw in Ryan Green, who showed glimpses of his ability last season and it’s fair to say the cupboard is full in the backfield in Tallahassee.
Oklahoma State was pretty good against the run last year allowing 142.38 yards per game, 32nd best in the nation, and 3.64 yards per carry, which was good for 22nd in the nation. They return a bulk of that defensive line losing just 2 of their top 6 on the rotation. Those lost does include the top tackler on the interior, however, in Tyler Johnson. James Castleman is a big body inside at 6’2″ 300 pounds and is the top returning tackler on the line. The linebacking corps got hit a little harder as the top two tacklers are gone and only one guy returns who made a significant impact last season, middle linebacker Ryan Simmons.
It’s very tough to tell what each team has before the season gets going, but Florida State should have the edge here. With a veteran offensive line and some dynamic backs, the Noles shouldn’t have too much trouble establishing something on the ground.
Florida State Pass Offense vs Oklahoma State Pass Defense
The Seminoles led the nation in passing efficiency, were second in yards per attempt and touchdowns, top 20 in yards per game, and top 10 in total passing yards. They return 4 of the 5 offensive lineman as stated above, the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, and their leading wide receiver who has a chance to break virtually every career receiving record in school history. The Noles also return one of the top pass catching tight ends in the country in Nick O’Leary. While they lose their #2 and #3 leading wide receivers in Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, it’s hard to feel sorry for a position group that brings in two college ready 5 star wide receivers, has a couple young playmakers, and a couple dependable veterans. The bottom line is much like last year, I’ll believe someone can stop the Florida State passing attack when I see it. I can’t imagine it will be as potent as last year, but there is too much returning and too much impressive youth being added for this not to be considered a strength for the Seminoles.
Oklahoma State gave up an 80th ranked 242.5 yards through the air last year. That’s in the pass happy Big12, though, so I think it’s more important to look at per pass numbers and efficiency. They are a much more impressive 7th in the nation with a 5.8 yard per attempt average and 6th best 104.56 pass defense efficiency when looking there. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, though, it’s hard to lose more in the secondary than they did this offseason. Stud cornerback Justin Gilbert is gone along with the entire secondary. In fact, Oklahoma State lost their top 5 defensive backs and 6 of their top 8. That combined with their loses at linebacker and this will be a very inexperienced and not overly talented back 7 to contend with.
I think the Noles have the advantage in both areas of offense, but to me this is the real mismatch. The Cowboys have to get pressure on Jamies Winston without blitzing as Winston tore apart blitzes last season and while they have a couple of decent rush ends, I just don’t see them getting a consistent amount of pressure against the FSU line. If they don’t and Winston is allowed time against this secondary, it could get ugly.
Oklahoma State Rush Offense vs Florida State Rush Defense
Oklahoma State is a bit more of a pass first team, but they have had a respectable run game in the past. Last season, the Cowboys ranked 64th in the nation with a per game average of 171.62 yards and 4.4 yards per carry average which was 54th in the nation. It was a bit of an odd season running the ball for them as they were fairly boom or bust rushing for 280+ yards three times, but also being held under 100 yards rushing four times. How last year translates to this year will be a bit of a mystery, though, as Oklahoma State loses 3 starters off of last years offensive line as well as their #2 rusher. Returning, however, is the leading rusher, Desmond Roland. The senior had a good season in 2013 rushing for 811 yards, but managing just a 4.6 yards per carry average. Oklahoma State likes to run the quarterback and part time starters Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh combined for over 700 yards on just over 100 carries for a very nice 6.82 yards per carry average. Clint Chelf was certainly the more dangerous of the two at 8.0 yards per carry, but he and his 433 yards rushing are gone. Incoming runningback Tyreek Hill is a bit of a wildcard here. The 4 star JUCO speedster was high on the Noles list this past recruiting cycle and he has dynamic playmaking ability. He’s a threat with his speed and it will be interesting to see early on how much he factors into the Oklahoma State offense.
Florida State slipped just a tad in their run defense last season. After dominating season performances in 2011 and 2012 where they held opponents to under 3 yards per rush, leading the nation at a ridiculous 2.35 yards per rush in 2011, they gave up 3.26 yards per carry in 2013. That yards per carry average was still good enough for 10th best in the nation, but they’ve also lost some fantastic players in the interior of the line and an experienced and talented linebacker. If Florida State has question marks this year, it’s probably on the interior of that defensive line. The front line guys are stout in Eddie Goldman and Niles Lawrence-Stample and the Noles know what they have with those guys. Depth is the biggest concern here, but there’s not a lack of bodies or talent just unproven inexperience. Giorgio Newberry and Justin Shanks are #2 guys on the depth chart, but freshman phenoms Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas have drawn high praise this fall and could see some significant time, too. One place there is no question mark is at strongside defensive end/jack position where Mario Edwards is one of the top run stopping outside line players in the nation and projected to be a high draft pick in next years NFL draft. The Noles also feature a group of experienced and ball hawking linebackers that can cover sideline to sideline.
Florida State has had a lot of success stopping spread running attacks the last couple of years and I think they’re built to be very good again this year. While Auburn had some success in last years National Championship game, the Cowboys aren’t trotting out Nick Marshall and Tre Mason with that Auburn offensive line. I can envision the Cowboys having some success running the ball as the Noles defensive line settles in, but overall this is still an advantage for FSU, though probably the closest matchup of the night.
Oklahoma State Pass Offense vs Florida State Pass Defense
Oklahoma State’s potent passing attack saw some significant drop off last season in nearly every statistical category as the Cowboys had difficulty settling on a quarterback throughout the season. The departed Clint Chelf started the season, but was quickly demoted after a struggling in the opener. J.W. Walsh stepped in and performed well, showing some excellent glimpses, but was benched after a poor first half showing against TCU and Chelf never relinquished the spot after that. With Chelf gone, the job falls to Walsh. He completed just under 60% of his passes last season and had a less than desirable yards per attempt average, but he does have some talent and has shown glimpses of that in the past. On the outside, the Cowboys lose 3 of their top 4 wide receivers, but if there is one spot that Oklahoma State has excelled at recently it’s been getting quality skill guys on the outside. So, while there’s not a lot of returning production, there is some potential targets for Walsh and with the system that the Cowboys run, they’ll have success this year in the passing game.
Florida State had an absolutely dominating pass defense last season. They gave up the fewest number of yards per game, fewest yards per attempt, led the nation in interceptions, and finished second in the nation in pass defense efficiency. So, is it possible to lose two players from that secondary to the NFL and actually get better? While probably not statistically, the Seminole secondary thinks so. Ronald Darby is close to 100% after battling a nagging injury all throughout last season that required offseason surgery. National Championship defensive MVP P.J. Williams returns on the other side of the ball from Darby to form, arguably, the top corner tandem in the nation as both guys project as possible first rounders for the 2015 NFL draft. Freshman All-American Jalen Ramsey slides down from safety to take over the star role from Lamarcus Joyner, who now plays with the St. Louis Rams. Last year’s starter at strong safety to begin the year, Tyler Hunter, returns after a serious neck injury almost ended his career in 2013. To round out the projected starters, Nate Andrews returns at the other safety spot and all he did was garner 3rd Team All-ACC as a true freshman. The Noles only gave up more than 220 yards passing in one game last year, so no matter how talented this group is, it’ll be hard pressed to duplicate the statistical success of the 2013 group. That said, this is the best secondary in college football and the strength of a very good defense.
This is a decided advantage for FSU with a group of excellent, experienced defensive backs going up against a group of inexperienced wide outs.
Score Prediction: FSU 41-17