How to handle FSU's defense


The 20th-ranked Coastal Division champs couldn't do it. No. 7 and then-undefeated Miami couldn't do it. Heck, even No. 3 Clemson couldn't muster more than two touchdowns against Florida State's defense.

Will No. 2 Auburn?

Maybe -- if it follows the Boston College blueprint.

One thing Auburn and Boston College had in common this season was their ability to run the ball. Several offensive coordinators throughout the ACC agreed that Auburn's offensive line will be the best Florida State has seen all season. On the flip side, Florida State enters the VIZIO BCS National Championship ranked first in the country in scoring defense (10.7 points per game), No. 3 in total defense (268.5 yards per game), and No. 14 in rushing defense (116.5 yards per game). Only Boston College was able to score more than two touchdowns against Florida State. It wasn't as if coordinators throughout the ACC weren't prepared -- just as Auburn will be tomorrow. It was simply that the Seminoles made fewer mistakes and executed their game plan with elite athletes.

"If you can't run the ball on them, then they don't have to put an extra safety in the box and then it becomes more difficult to throw the ball," said Boston College offensive coordinator Ryan Day. "They're so deep, they can roll a lot of guys and stay fresh. They're really talented all across the board, so you can get yourself off schedule if you can't run the football on them on first and second down, and you get yourself into third-and-long, third-and-medium, and it becomes an uphill battle."

Day, who also coached against FSU when former coordinator Mark Stoops was leading the defense, said the Seminoles' new scheme under first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has several more fronts, different spacing and is "a little more intricate." With Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams leading the way (28 carries for 149 yards), the Eagles came oh-so-close to FSU's only upset of the season before falling 48-34. They ran the ball well, used misdirection, threw to the tailback and took advantage of some undisciplined reads to create some explosive plays. And, of course, their ability to run the ball allowed Day to take some shots with the play-action pass.

Of course, he'd like one more shot at the Noles -- this time with one big change (listen up, Auburn):

"Don't lose the game on third down," Day said. "Run the ball or check the ball down. Punt the ball, play the next series, but don't lose the game on offense trying to throw the ball on third down, third-and-long. If you get yourself off schedule, take your medicine and go play the next series. Because once you get into a situation like that against Florida State, where you're dropping back and trying to throw it, you get yourself in trouble."

Just ask Clemson. Or NC State. Or Pitt. Or Miami.

Miami offensive coordinator James Coley knew Florida State's defense would reload this season, in spite of losing every starter on the defensive line and a total of 11 NFL draft picks from the entire 2012 roster. As Florida State's former offensive coordinator, Coley witnessed the talent waiting in the wings at the Seminoles' practices in 2012.

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