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Countdown Q&A, Week 4 - Florida State

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 17 Boston College at Florida State Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Week four of the Q&A series with the Cards coming off an emotional win, jumping on an airplane, and flying straight to [checks notes] a raging dumpster fire in Tallahassee, FL. While the situation is looking rough, my man Jon is not. Joining us from over at ‘Tomahawk Nation’ Jon has all the answers to the hard hitting questions from yours truly. Let’s get messy.

Well Jon, things ain’t exactly puppy dogs and tomahawks down in Tallahassee nowadays. While many Louisville fans checked out a solid performance on opening weekend between the ‘Noles and Notre Dame, a fair amount of folks also saw the highlight clip of FSU losing on a walkoff to Jacksonville State. Tack on a loss to Wake last week and the start of 2021 has been a tough one to swallow. What the heck is happening?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 08 Samford at Florida State Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

How much time you got, and is your therapist any good? Uh, where to start. They played up and down against Notre Dame, who made very few mistakes, and still almost won. I think against Jacksonville State the staff got a little too cocky and arrogant and didn’t treat the game as seriously as they should have known they needed to. My evidence for that is their game plan, where they called the same play over and over on offense and on defense played very vanilla man coverage. I think that attitude trickled down to the players, whose effort at times looked very suspect. I’m worried that such a massive miscalculation and backfire is starting to spiral out of control. This was supposed to be the “lose a little” year, and that seemed true after being so competitive against the Irish. But to lose to an FCS team like that...Wake was always going to be a tough out with all of their returning players, but Florida State looked somewhat uninterested, and that’s what concerns me.

This roster is not in great shape, as I outlined here. But it’s also clear this staff just isn’t doing a great job right now. Answers have been hard to find.

I swear this isn’t me piling on ol’ buddy but in your honest opinion, is the loss to Jacksonville State the worst in program history, or at least in our lifetime?

It’s Florida State’s first ever loss to a FCS team so it has to be, right? I mean, losing to a FCS is the worst thing a Power 5 FBS program can do. On the field you can’t really sink any lower than that. It’s ancient history now, but the 30-0 loss to Wake Forest back in 2006 really was a watershed moment for the program that forced change and was probably the beginning of the end for Bobby Bowden’s reign in Tallahassee. In and of itself that’s pretty monumental ramifications. Florida State is in a very different place now, so even though the result against Jacksonville State is objectively worse, I don’t think it will carry with it the same consequences. What it did do was completely evaporate all of the goodwill in the fanbase that was generated by the ND game. Many fans are already checked out for this season. I just hope the players don’t follow.

While the story of McKenzie Milton made headlines most Cards fans are more familiar with the backups Jordan Travis (former Card), Chubba Purdy (longtime Card commit/signing day flip), and I assume Tate Rodemaker is like Satterfield’s third cousin or something. It appears Milton will keep the starting spot this week, what can he do to get the offense moving this week?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 05 Notre Dame at Florida State Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Haha. I’m not sure he can, to be honest. The issue is Florida State’s offensive line and receivers. The offensive line, while not as terrible as they were a few seasons ago, is still in a bit of upheaval. There’s very little depth and that depth is already being tested. Multiple linemen seem to go down with injury every practice and every game. Every time someone goes down, the line gets shuffled around. People make mistakes, players that struggle a lot are asked to play. For the receivers, true freshman Malik McClain is probably already FSU’s best receiver, and that says a lot. For the most part this unit just can’t get any kind of separation to get open and they really struggle to make contested catches. They even drop passes when wide open. You can maybe get away with not having one of those traits, but not both.

So to answer your question, I think the talent around Milton really limits the upside you expected to get by bringing him in. Last week against Wake Forest Milton turned the ball over four times, including on three straight plays near the end of the game. That’s because WF figured out that if you man up across the board on FSU’s receivers (which even Jacksonville State had success doing) Milton has no choice but to force the ball into less than ideal situations, and his leg injury really limits his ability to scramble or extend plays. The development of the passing game you wanted to see since last season just hasn’t materialized, and you start to wonder when Mike Norvell might move to either the same run-heavy offense you had last season with Jordan Travis or go to young quarterback Chubba Purdy and some more of the freshmen receivers and tight ends. If FSU sticks with Milton and the older receivers I worry we’ll see a replay of the WF game over and over again this season, including this weekend.

While FSU is giving up a couple ticks over 30 points every game on average, one guy is creating some disruption in the backfield and that is your national leader in sacks (4.5) Mr. Jermain Johnson II. Is he the lone bright spot or are there other guys on that side of the ball we should be looking out for this week? Who’s the mostly likely QB spy, or guy they hope to use to contain Malik when he takes off out of the pocket?

Jermaine Johnson is an absolute stud and easily far and away the best player on the team. WF was able to limit him a little bit last week because they like to ride the mesh for 30 years on every snap, but he’s a very good player. There’s a couple other guys that are pretty good. Fellow transfer end Keir Thomas has been solid, and him and Johnson will look to squeeze Cunningham in the pocket while keeping the edges defended. Nose tackle Fabien Lovett, who wears the number Zero, has also played well this season. The most likely player to spy Cunningham would probably be linebacker Kalen DeLoach, unless FSU opts to use a defensive back. DeLoach is really the only linebacker FSU has who can cover in space. As for other guys that might stand out, there really isn’t anyone. FSU’s secondary is a mess. They look like they have talent on paper but they aren’t performing to that standard and they’ve been shuffled around a lot as FSU tries to find a group that works. I like a lot of the potential some younger players like Kevin Knowles have, but not sure how much they’ll play.

If FSU comes out of the gate 0-4 do we see pitchforks and an empty stadium or do most fans see this as a rebuild process?

It’s absolutely a rebuild process, but the pitchforks are already out and I expect poor attendance on Saturday. The FSU fanbase is...impatient when it comes to success, likely due to all the success they had under Bowden and Jimbo Fisher, and there’s plenty of other distractions in Tallahassee. But like I linked up above, this roster is a mess and the only way through it is time. If FSU was at 1-2 most people would probably shrug and say ‘I get it.’ But that loss to JSU, man...it changed a lot. The hopes for a bowl game are over. It hasn’t helped that the team looks like they’ve regressed every week since Notre Dame. That’s the opposite of what’s supposed to happen.

As of right now the Cards are coming into this game favored by 2.5 pts. FSU is coming off a couple rough games and Louisville coming off what some may argue is their best win in a few years over UCF last week. How do you see this one playing out on what we expect to be a sunny day out in the panhandle?

I’ve been able to watch a little bit of Louisville this season and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t real impressed with them either, especially after that Ole Miss game. But they looked a lot better against UCF, and it doesn’t hurt that the game was insane and thrilling. Now I think 2.5 might be a little generous to FSU. Regardless of Louisville and how good they are or aren’t, I just think the Seminoles have way too many questions and issues right now to be confident about anything. It’s one of those situations where I’ll believe it after I see it, but not before. So I’ll go Louisville 38, FSU 23

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Huge thanks again to Jon for his time. You can check out his work on ‘Tomahawk Nation’ and feel free to give them a follow on twitter here for all your FSU news, although I assume it will be a basketball only site in about 3 days. Go Cards.