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Countdown Q&A-Week 4, Florida State

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NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Another week of extremely in depth questioning using advanced analytics and statistical abnormalities....is likely taking place on another website, but here, I just bring you the good stuff. Questions and answers that are much easier to digest than the double bacon cheeseburger you just pounded down during lunch.

Today’s lucky partner in this two man tango is Jon Marchant from over at ‘Tomahawk Nation’. The Cards and the ‘Noles have had some real battles the last few years resulting in plenty of tears, lots of frustration, and was a big contributor to two coaches losing their jobs. Lets hope the exchange between myself and Jon is slightly more civil.

Before we jump into the questions this week I’d like to pause-…………sorry, wanted to let a little more time run off the clock. We’re all friends here Jon, want a few minutes to vent about how bad the ACC refs are?

TN: Man, listen. I don’t have to tell you. But they’ve been bad for a long time. I don’t mean just ACC refs, I mean all football referees. Didn’t the NFL even decide to move to some full-time refs? They’re bad too! Does the game just need more refs/eyeballs? Is that really where we’re at? Can that be the answer? Who officiates the officials?

Ahem. Anyway, we can’t even pretend this is a new thing. Back in 2012 they actually got suspended for blowing several calls against FSU in the Miami game. Or how about the year prior when Nigel Bradham was ejected for a legal hit, also against Miami? In 2016 they blew another call against FSU in a game vs. Clemson. These aren’t just holding calls we’re talking about here. These are game-changing blunders that in some cases affected the outcome of the game, and they always seem to happen in rivalry games. Saturday was just another entry in a storied history of garbage calls. I think this is why most FSU fans hate Duke, because they get all the calls in basketball that FSU doesn’t get in football. The worst part is there’s less than zero hope it will get better. I’m convinced football officiating follows the second law of thermodynamics. Ahem.

Three weeks into the season Florida State is sitting at 1-2 and were a botched extra point away from risking the dreaded 0-3 start. The AD at FSU wasn’t exactly pulling out his checkbook in the offseason to keep Willie Taggart around and the fanbase as a whole doesn’t appear to be thrilled through the first 15 games (6-9, nice). What’s been the problem(s) so far preventing ‘Steamboat Willie’ from pushing this thing down river?

TN: Where to start? Jimbo Fisher left FSU in a bad place. A lot of the fans are really mad at Taggart right now, understandably I suppose, but how quickly we forget getting waxed by Lamar Jackson’s Cardinals, or the team just giving up against Boston College. I’d probably point to three main things though. First, the offensive line. Fisher left FSU with no depth and several guys who can’t play at a Power 5 level. They are much improved this year, but they still aren’t average and have to be game planned around. Second, the culture. You had kids with poor work ethic or bad attitudes, and who weren’t going to class. That leads to the third thing; the APR. It was so bad when Fisher left that it’s prevented Taggart from moving on from those same kids. All three things require multiple years to fix, and have affected FSU’s recruiting.

Aside from that, Taggart has made his own mistakes. His initial coaching hires on both sides of the ball haven’t exactly gone to plan, and not surprisingly there’s been some questionable coaching decisions.

One thing FSU can still point to with enthusiasm is the talent of starting RB Cam Akers. While the ground game hasn’t been overly impressive Cam is still leading the ACC with 129yd/game. Do they need to get him the ball more or are the struggles in the passing game preventing the run from opening up?

TN: To help cover up the offensive line FSU’s offense relies heavily on RPOs. That allows the OL to run block even if it turns into a pass play. I don’t think they ran Akers enough vs. Virginia, so I’d agree they need to get him the ball more, especially with James Blackman struggling to throw the ball. This offense has to stay out of passing downs to avoid bad plays, and I think Akers can help them do that. I’m worried that teams will start to trigger on the run to force Blackman to throw.

The Florida State defense this season is like looking through a beer stained photo album (thanks VanGorder) of the 2018 Louisville defense. Giving up 485 yards a game ain’t great, but allowing 37 points per game on average may actually be worse. Yikes. As Michael Scott would say, ‘Why Are You The Way That You Are?’

TN: Yikes is right. It appears that in trying to compensate for FSU’s expected lack of edge rush following the NFL-departure of Brian Burns that FSU has made a calculated mistake in moving to a 3-4. It has screwed with everything, including the coverage behind it. The coverage is supposed to dictate the front, but it looks like they’ve changed the front and tried to adapt everything behind it.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Boise State v Florida State Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Now you have kids playing positions they shouldn’t play, they don’t know their run fits, and you’re running different coverage's this staff doesn’t really have experience teaching. Also, their poor play has nothing to do with the offense’s time of possession. The linebacker play in particular has been atrocious. FSU just hired Jim Leavitt as an analyst, so we’ll see if he can work any magic.

While the Cards QB is still a bit up in the air, Louisville will undoubtedly look to the ground game as a major focus. With the FSU secondary struggling a bit would you prefer to see a team who is looking to attack you in the run game rather than through the air?

TN: I don’t think it really matters to be honest haha. But if I had to choose one, I think I would choose the running game. I think there’s hope that they can fix the front and their run fits and have the players executing better.

Remember when Lamar Jackson ran for 700 yards and threw for another 700 yards back in 2016, basically introducing himself to the world and setting up his run for the Heisman trophy? That’s the question.

TN: It doesn’t look like anything to me.

Three games in how are the Noles looking from an injury standpoint? Any notable absences for this week’s game?

TN: Well, FSU just lost Joshua Kaindoh, their best pass rusher, for the season. Their starting left tackle Jauan Williams has a sprained ankle and it’s uncertain if he will play. He missed the game against Virginia.

Alright Jon, it’s an ACC win that both teams really need early in the year. The Cards have some momentum building and FSU is coming off a tough loss on the road. How does this one play out and who you got when the clock hits seven seconds, which is really more like four seconds….and is basically zero?

TN: I think this is a must-win game for FSU and Taggart. This team is clearly getting better, but they still haven’t turned the corner and learned how to finish games. They must do so before it’s too late and the players check out again and they miss out on another bowl game. FSU also opened as eight-point favorites. The fanbase is already out for Willie. Could you imagine how loud the noise would get if FSU dropped a game as a favorite? I think with seven seconds to go FSU will be up 36-33 and finally finds a way to finish.

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Huge thanks to Jon once again for his time. Feel free to check out some more of his work here, or give ‘Tomahawk Nation’ a follow for all your FSU needs. Football, basketball, baseball, I think they even have a ‘Dissapointed Leonard Hamilton’ daily email they send out if you’re interested. One stop shop.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - West Regional - Anaheim - Practice Sessions Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images