Nov. 16, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- With a trip to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game on the line, the No. 6/10 Florida State football team will be playing two opponents Saturday on the road: itself and Maryland.
The Seminoles (9-1, 6-1 ACC) travel to Byrd Stadium in the midst of their best regular season since 2000 and within reach of the league championship they've coveted since 2005. They're also heavy favorites against a Terrapins (4-6 2-4) squad that has been absolutely decimated by injures -- particularly at the quarterback position.
Maryland has been so unlucky under center this season that against the 'Noles it will start a true freshman linebacker that wears No. 31 at quarterback for the third consecutive game. Before Shawn Petty was unexpectedly moved to offense, the Terps lost a staggering four scholarship quarterbacks to season-ending injuries.
Petty's current backup is a walk-on tight end.
"I've never dealt with it, so I can only imagine what it's like," said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, a former college quarterback and long-time mentor of signal callers.
It's obviously a huge challenge for Maryland to be in that situation but it's also one for the 'Noles.
With the annual rivalry game against Florida next week, how tough will it be to not look past the depleted Terrapins? Maryland enters the game ranked 120th in the nation in yards per game (284.3), 102nd in passing offense (182.9), 112th in rushing offense (101.4) and 111th in scoring offense (18.9).
On the flip side, FSU leads in the entire country in total defense (242.9 yards allowed per game).
With Petty at quarterback, Maryland has thrown a combined 30 passes (with just 15 completions) in back-to-back weeks against two of the ACC's worst defenses, Georgia Tech and Clemson.
"We are an unselfish team -- an unselfish defense -- so we know that this week there is not going to be a lot of passing, so the front seven it's their time to eat," FSU junior safety Lamarcus Joyner said. "They get the opportunity to make those hard hits and make a lot of tackles up front. Those guys deserve it. Some weeks it's going to be a passing challenge and some weeks it's going to be a running challenge.
"We don't know what kind of tricks Maryland has up their sleeve," Joyner added, "so we have to go out there focused on them and take it one play at a time to accomplish our goals."
And the No. 1 goal is earning a win that would propel the Seminoles to Charlotte, N.C. for the annual conference title game in two weeks.
FSU, which dominated the conference for so long, has only made it to two title games since the league's inaugural contest in 2005. After beating Virginia Tech that year when the game was in Jacksonville, Fla., the 'Noles lost to the Hokies two years ago in North Carolina.
To get back, Florida State must not overlook the Terps and it must play well offensively. For their shortcomings on offense, Maryland ranks 16th nationally in total defense (315.1 yards allowed per game).
"Our goal is to make it to the ACC Championship and we are going to do whatever it takes to make it there," Joyner said.