Preview: Florida State versus Northern Illinois

Preview: Florida State versus Northern Illinois

By Scott Carswell Jr.,

This Saturday at 3:30 on ESPNU the Seminoles on take on Northern Illinois.

Northern Illinois is 1-2 on the season with losses to Iowa and Utah and a win versus Central Michigan.

The last time these two played was in the 2013 Orange Bowl. FSU won the game 31 to 10. This game was Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey’s first game as a head coach as well.

Florida State offense versus Northern Illinois defense

Florida State’s offense has been anemic at best scoring five points per game against FBS level opponents and only scoring 29 on offense versus Samford. The Northern Illinois’ defense is the focal point of their team so I’m not sure the offense will find as much success as we want it to on Saturday either.

The offensive line has clearly been the biggest issue. Jauan Williams and Baveon Johnson have not developed as quickly as expected and starters Derrick Kelly, Landon Dickerson and Cole Minshew have missed time and will miss the game as well. The problems on offense don’t stop there as Francois is still missing reads and is sometimes wildly inaccurate, the receivers can’t hang on to the ball and the backs keep trying to make big plays when they’re just not there. Coach Taggart has promised to try to figure out ways to help the offensive line keep the quarterback up right in the pocket. Some ways that have been talked about to do so are leaving more backs and receivers in to block, rolling Francois out of pocket and more quarterback-designed runs.

The Huskies defense is led by junior defensive end Sutton Smith, who was a 2017 second team All-American. Last year Smith recorded an astonishing 14 sacks and 29 1/2 tackles for loss. The defense is also very experienced as all but one starter is a junior or senior. Other players on the NIU defense to look out for are linebackers Kyle Pugh and Antonio Jones-Davis. In order for Florida State to have any success they have to have solid plays on first down in order to keep Northern Illinois guessing on later downs. The Seminoles are going to have to get most of their yards on the outside and hopefully they can make some big plays using their speed. Northern Illinois’ defense is too good and Florida State’s offense is too inconsistent to sustain drives.

Florida State defense versus Northern Illinois offense

Just like on the other side of the ball Florida State’s defense is the strength of the team. Last week the defense did everything they could to keep the Seminoles in the game but due to the team’s lack of possession they could only keep up the good play for so long. For the past several years the Seminoles have done well against slower, more pro-style offenses with a non-running quarterback like NIU. I expect that success to continue in this game with the lack of playmakers at the skill positions for the Huskies. Marcus Childers is the Northern Illinois quarterback and he is averaging just over 100 yards passing per game this season. With these numbers the Huskies will rely on their running game to move the ball. Tre Harbison and Jordan Nettles are the leading rushers with 228 and 130 yards respectively. Childers relies on really just two receivers and they are DJ Brown and Jauan Wesley. NIU’s offensive line is anchored by NFL caliber left tackle Max Scharping. The most interesting matchup on this side of the ball will feature Scharping and Bryan Burns. The FSU run defense is a strength of the team, which bodes well for the Seminoles because the Huskies will try to establish the run game for most of the contest. Look for Demarcus Christmas, Marvin Wilson, Fred Jones, Dontavious Jackson and Jaiden Woodbey to have big games.

Special teams

If Ricky Agauyo was kicking like he was last year I would say Florida State has an edge at kicker but he is struggling so it is about about even this position. The punters are about the same as well but Northern Illinois excels at blocking kicks so Logan Tyler will need to get his punts off quicker. Due to FSU’s wealth of speed they hold the edge in the return game if the blocking holds up.

Prediction and why

I expect this to be the defensive struggle with the lack of consistency shown by the two offenses this season and the plethora of defensive talent for both teams. If Northern Illinois exploits the Seminoles special teams FSU could trip up once again. But I think FSU scores just enough points to get it a 13-10 victory.

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