Thursday, December 29, 2005

Orange Bowl Preview- Offense

Only five days from gameday, I figured I should finally put this together.

Penn State and Florida State arrived at their Orange Bowl berths on two seperate paths. Penn State reached Miami with a resurgent 10-1 season following four losing seasons in the past five years. Even in the grand scheme of things, the 9-4 2002 season was disappointing from a Penn State perspective. But with a new approach to recruiting and a willingness to re-invent the offensive gameplan at Penn State, Joe Paterno successfully brought Penn State back from the deep depths of finishing behind Northwestern in the Big Ten standings. The Lions are poised to build on the success of this season, as evidenced by the already impressive recruiting class, and make seasons like this the norm, not the exception.

Florida State has had an interesting season, to say the least. The Seminoles started out with a win over Miami, defeated Boston College late in September and climbed near the top of the polls and entered the national title picture. Then came a shocking loss to Virginia in Charlottesville. Two weeks later, a home loss to N.C. State. Florida State would finish with three consecutive losses, losing to Clemson and Florida following the N.C. State loss. At 7-4, things seemed bleak for FSU. They faced the possibility of having 5 losses before a bowl game as they prepared to face Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. To almost everyon'e surprise, Virginia Tech choked and Florida State won the ACC, becoming this year's undeserving BCS participant. Now at 8-4, the Seminoles are looking to show the nation that they do belong.

Penn State Offense:
Michael Robinson has easily been Penn State's MVP this season. After playing QB, RB, WR and KR in his first three seasons at Penn State, he finally settled in and was a catalyst in rejuvanating Penn State's offensive attack. Despite struggling in his first four games this season, Robinson bounced back to have a stellar senior season. He can beat you with his arm or legs. Florida State is going to have as hard a time stopping him. If they bring the blitz he'll use his howitzer and get it to the outstanding corps of wideouts or if they "stay home" he'll run with Tony Hunt.

Tony Hunt is one of the best tailbacks in the country but, unfortunately, few outside of the Big Ten have heard of him. He is a tough, physical runner and one of the best backs at Penn State in sometime. While he doesn't the closing speed that Larry Johnson possesses, he is agile and usually breaks one or two long runs each game. If Penn State has a lead late in the game and needs to run time off the clock, expect old school "Paterno Ball" with Tony Hunt running it up the gut every play. BranDon Snow, perhaps the last true fullback who will ever don the Blue and White, is an outstanding blocker and he has become a goal line favorite over the past couple of games. Expect him to see some carries when PSU gets close to the endzone.

The Penn State wideouts may be the mosy improved unit on the entire team. After trying to piece together a passing game with a handful of fourth and fifth year guys with limited talented obviously did not work out in 2004. Joe Paterno asserted that PSU was only "a player or two away". He was indeed correct. The two players are Derrick Williams and Deon Butler. Williams can line up anywhere on offense and make a big impact. It's scary to think what the PSU offensce could have done against their final four opponents with Williams considering how well they did without him. He is one of the many players PSU now has with the "southern speed" that Florida State likes to brag about. Butler, Jordan Norwood and Terrell Golden will have no problems stretching the field against the Seminoles. Unfortunately, Derrick Williams will not play in the game, per Joe Paterno.

Penn State's offensive line has improved significantly throughout the season, a much improved unit from 2004 to 2005. Tackle Levi Brown was named a second team All-American. The line is able to hold back the rush and give Robinson time to throw and has consistently opened holes for Tony Hunt. Even against Ohio State's stellar defense, the line was able to open up holes consistently to allow Penn State to run the football efficiently. Expect the same type of results against Florida State.

Florida State Offense:
Drew Weatherford, despite a shakey start to the season, rebounded to emerge as one of the top QB's in the ACC. He has several speedy wideouts to throw to and should be able to keep the Penn State DB's on their toes.

Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker are two talented and dangerous running backs but neither one has been able to consistently rip apart opponents. While both possess dangerous rushing ability, I expect the Penn State front seven to be able to contain them and force Drew Weatherford to throw against one of the best secondaries in the nation.

"Southern speed." Worst. Argument. Ever. Florida State seems to think that every southern team has this magical speed that no one else can possibly possess and how they will run circles around PSU's defensive backs. The secondary is the most experienced unit for Penn State and they will not be dominated simply by speed. If I remember correctly, FSU's wideouts are pretty young. The Seminoles will be able to come up with a play or two here and there but if PSU can shutdown Ted Ginn and Santonio Holmes, they will be able to contain the FSU wideouts.

I don't know anything about the Florida State offensive line. If any 'Noles or other informed fan would care to share any insight, leave a comment, I'll add it and give you credit. My only guess is that Tamba Hali should have no problem plowing over the tackle in the same fashion that he did against some of hte best offensive linemen in the Big Ten in 2005.


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