Nov. 3, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The pros and cons of a Thursday night game are obvious.
When Florida State squares off tonight against Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., the Seminoles (5-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) will do so in front of a national audience on ESPN.
"I think that's pretty cool," starting fullback Lonnie Pryor said. "Thursday night game, eight o'clock and we are the only one on TV so if someone is watching football we'd be the only game on."
But the benefit of being the only viewing option for football fans (other than Akron at Miami (Oh) on ESPNU) and the added exposure that accompanies it comes at a price.
FSU must play the Eagles (2-6, 1-4) on a short week's rest. Instead of having on off-day on Sunday, four days of practice-field preparation from Monday to Thursday and finally a travel day on Friday, the schedule had to be squished for the team's ninth game of the season.
After dismantling NC State 34-0 last Saturday, the 'Noles were back at practice the next day before back-to-back sessions on the Al Dunlap Practice Fields Monday and Tuesday. The team left campus for the charter flight to New England around lunch time on Wednesday.
"Everybody's got to do it, I just hate the five-day turnaround," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said earlier this week. "It's tough and they have to do it too. It's part of it. It's part of the deal. Academically, it stretches you and physically it stretches you. It's something that we're going to do, it's ESPN."
From all indications, FSU's players and coaches handled the compacted schedule without much difficulty.
In fact, the Seminoles may have even gotten a boost this week with the improved health of Rashad Greene. The freshman sensation has missed every game of the 'Noles' current winning streak with an injured ankle but has been upgraded to "probable" for the contest against Boston College.
"I think our firepower at receiver is really increased with him coming back," quarterback EJ Manuel said. "I think he is an explosive player like I have always said; a big-play threat. I am extremely happy to have him back."
If Greene is able to play, he rejoins a Florida State offense that has really hit its stride. The Seminoles have outscored their last three opponents 116-32 and are averaging 469 yards of offense in that same span of games.
Manuel is leading that charge with an arsenal of weapons that have been virtually unstoppable. The passing game has been the most consistent aspect of FSU's offensive game this year and that hasn't changed during the winning steak but the running game has seen its resurgence happen at the most opportune time.
FSU is averaging a little less than 200 yards rushing in wins over Duke, Maryland and NC State and against Boston College faces an Eagles squad that ranks 75th in the nation at stopping the run.
Boston College's ineptitude versus the run is actually a widespread problem across several facets of the game. But despite ranking no better than 51st in the nation in any of the primary team statistical rankings, BC gained a glimmer of hope last weekend when it achieved its first league victory of the season.
In a 28-17 win at Maryland, Rolandan Finch, who replaced the lost-for-the-year Montel Harris at tailback, exploded for 243 yards rushing. His emergence in the backfield and the Eagles' yearly ability to field big, athletic offensive lines is something that the FSU players and coaches will be paying special attention to on Thursday night.
"They had a couple tough games," Fisher said. "If you watch their film, it doesn't relate to their record."
Woking in the 'Noles' favor is a defensive unit that has awoken from its slumber after embarrassing outings at Clemson and Wake Forest.
Florida State will try to corral Finch and control the line scrimmage with a defense that ranks eighth overall in the entire country and fourth against the run by allowing just 77 yards on the ground per game.
"We're playing better, but I don't think we're anywhere close to where we need to be and can be," Fisher said.
In addition to airing live on ESPN, the game will also be carried live online at ESPN3.com.