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    Friday, October 10, 2008

    Three And Out: FSU Progress

    This week's "Three And Out" is contributed by Andrew Carter. Andrew has covered sports for the Orlando Sentinel since 2005, and has covered Florida State since July 2007. Though he's a newcomer to the FSU beat, he's no newcomer to the ACC and college sports. Andrew grew up in Raleigh, N.C. and graduated from North Carolina State University. I asked him to answer three questions regarding the progress of the Noles up to this point in the season. Thanks to Andrew for taking the time to answer the questions.

    1. Now that the Noles have played five games and are in a bye week, what two things about the football team have been the biggest surprise to you so far this season?

    By far the biggest surprise so far this season has been the success of the running game and specifically the success of a young, inexperienced offensive line. I don't think anybody expected this offensive line to play as well as it has, and that's a big credit to offensive line coach Rick Trickett. Already, through just five games, FSU has run three times this season for more than 200 yards. FSU right now is averaging more than 231 yards rushing per game. That's a huge improvement for a running game that averaged just 127.6 yards per game a season ago.

    The second thing that has surprised me about this team is just the overall effectiveness of the defense, which is ranked third nationally right now. This is starting to look like an old-school, vintage Florida State defense -- with guys flying around, making plays and creating general havoc. We'll see if the defense can keep it up but so far I've been surprised at how well Mickey Andrews has his guys playing.

    2. I know you give grades each week for the football team. What overall grade would you give the offense and defense at this point in the season?

    I'd give the offense a C+ and the defense an A-. Might seem a bit low for the offense to receive a C+, but I'm still waiting to see this passing game take off. So far -- and despite the fact that Christian Ponder continues to improve -- the Seminoles' passing game has been a disappointment, especially considering the weapons FSU has at receiver. Also, the disaster against Wake Forest causes FSU's overall offensive grade to suffer in my book. If you wanted to break it down even further, I'd give the running game an A and the passing game a D+.

    And overall, I think FSU has only put together one completely sound offensive game --and that was against Miami. I expect the passing game to improve as the season progresses and when that passing game does improve, FSU has a chance to be a dangerous offensive team. Defensively, the only thing keeping the 'Noles from an A is the lack of turnovers they've created. They made progress in this category against Miami, but there's still more work to be done. Plus, there have been some issues with penalties and lack of discipline -- but even the great Florida State defenses of years past had those issues.

    3. The Noles have some tough upcoming ACC games left on their schedule. What about this FSU football team needs to improve in order for the Noles to have a shot at winning the majority of their remaining ACC games?

    To be successful the rest of the season, I think the Seminoles will need to develop more balance on offense. I'm not sure if FSU will be able to run for 200 yards every game, especially if the passing game continues to struggle. Christian Ponder has shown us all what he can do with his legs -- now it's time to show people what he can do with his arm. He had a breakout game against Miami in terms of his playmaking ability and his decision making. Now he needs to have a breakout game with his arm.

    Defensively, the 'Noles need to keep doing what they're doing, for the most part, and avoid the letdowns that have plagued them in the past. In recent seasons, FSU has had one or two games per season where it just hasn't shown up defensively. That hasn't happened yet, of course, but the schedule only becomes more difficult from here on out.

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