Game Preview: Thursday Night Football In The Cold

Predicting a win on 4 days rest in the cold against the pitiful Boston College Eagles.

The Florida State Seminoles (5-3, 3-2 ACC) make their longest road trip of the year to the Boston College Eagles (2-6, 1-4 ACC) this Thursday night. Regardless of rank, Florida State remains a high profile team, and the opportunity of attention and cash flow for the ACC has created a solid tradition of FSU playing on Thursdays. That doesn't mean the team likes it, but it is a tradition. "I understand why they put us on (Thursday nights). I wish they wouldn't, but they do," coach Jimbo Fisher said. It's easy to understand his frustration. 

The logistical problems of playing a Thursday night game are amplified this year: traveling 1,100+ miles to play in the snow on four days rest against a division rival. Warchant did a great write up on FSU's history on Thursday nights, and it's not pretty. The good news is: Florida State will be reeling from a shutout over N.C. State, QB E.J. Manuel is from Virginia, and knows what it's like to play in the snow, and it's Boston College. The bad news: the cold, four days rest, and history - the Seminoles have played ten games on four days rest in the past, and only won five.

Offense:

Boston College is 2-6 thus far, with only one ACC win over Maryland. Before that game they faced Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Clemson, only able to score two touchdowns against each. The victory at Maryland came as a shock to me, but the Eagles' greatest offensive weapon showed up ready to play: Rolandan Finch, a sophomore who rushed for 243 yards in the freezing cold and snow. Finch averages about 6 yards per carry and last week matched his season total, so it may have been a fluke. Fortunately, the Eagles have no other real rushing threat. Their special teams offense is nothing to shake a stick at and Boston College passed for only 32 yards in Saturday's win.

Florida State, on the other hand, passed for 321 yards last Saturday and likewise saw their new lead rusher (Devonta Freeman) continue to shine. In the air, FSU could see the return of stellar freshman Rashad Greene, who has been practicing full time and recovering from an ankle injury, along side freshmen Kenny Shaw and Christian Green who blanket the secondary. FSU's receiving core is not limited to freshmen though. Last week Greg Dent caught three bombs for 70 yards, Jermaine Thomas and Bert Reed caught five each averaging 10 yards per reception, and it doesn't stop there. The Seminoles have targeted at least 9 receivers per game, so Manuel should have plenty of targets.

In terms of the running game, beyond Freeman, E.J. has been healthy enough to run the ball and work the full gambit of options, as seen in FSU's most versatile performance of the year last Saturday when the Noles used option plays to score two rushing TDs. While I don't expect as much rushing in the cold, it could happen should the passing game falter. That said, the Seminole offense is settling into their roles and it's a beautiful thing. A four wide-receiver spread has certainly made up for the incompetence at tight end this year, so surely the Seminoles will take to the air, and we can expect the Eagles to fight on the ground.

Defense:

There is a 20% chance of rain and the temperature will start around 50 degrees and will not drop until late in the game, so the conditions may not be too poor. It's hard to imagine either team's defense not being tired on four days rest, so the secret to winning will be finding which players are losing their energy and capitalize on those matchups. For Florida State, if the defensive line is ready, we could see a similar performance to last week. FSU has learned a lot since allowing 125 rush yards to Maryland in that ugly third quarter and it showed against N.C. State. In the air, Greg Ried, Lamarcus Joyner, and the rest of the FSU pass defense should be greatly feared, averaging only two TDs allowed per game this year. FSU also ranks fourth in the country with 29 sacks on the season, so should they choose to pass the ball... sweet.

The Eagle defense has allowed an average of 25 points per game and ranks 10th in the ACC in allowing rushing yards. However, their secondary has been the most beleaguered this season thanks to injuries. From what I've read, last week was their defense's first showing of big stops in clutch situations, but that doesn't mean a vast improvement. On the D-line Boston College is 120th in football in regards to sacks this season, which is dead last at six. At least the Eagles have seven interceptions this season to brag about, which is league average.

While FSU is likewise average at interceptions, a paltry 6 despite the Seminoles "12th best" ranking in FBS college defense, the Boston College offense has been known for turnovers, including ten in the month of October and four against Maryland last week. Special Teams will give the Noles an advantage in field position all night, so the opportunity for turnovers should be high enough to whet the tired Seminoles' chops. Worth mentioning, Florida State has been known to shoot themselves in the foot with unrested players and penalties, so we can expect a lot of frustration. 

Prediction: Florida State 34, Boston College 10

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