Sunday, December 22, 2002
Seminoles still have a chance
By Bob Griese
Special to ABC Sports Online
Florida State was due for a down year. For 14 straight years, the Seminoles finished the season in the top 5. They were due for a couple of four-loss seasons. It happened at Penn State, Notre Dame and Alabama. Oklahoma was down before Bob Stoops took over. It's nothing out of the ordinary for a school to have a down year. We could say it's about time that Florida State had one.
Now the Seminoles face even more issues as they head into the Nokia Sugar Bowl. Thanks to suspensions and injuries, they enter the game with a much different lineup than the one they had at the start of the season.
It doesn't look good for Florida State, having lost four games and going against a good 12-1 Georgia team. But you cannot discount FSU against Georgia because Bobby Bowden knows how to win bowl games (his 18-6-1 record is best in college football history). And the Seminoles have enough talent to match up with the Bulldogs.
The key will be the play of third-string quarterback Fabian Walker. He's finally getting his opportunity to play thanks to suspensions to Adrian McPherson and Chris Rix, who both played well during stretches this season.
Walker is not a green freshman coming into the game. He's only attempted eight passes this season, but this is his third year at Florida State since being highly recruited out of high school. The one important factor is that he can't afford to get hurt. His backup is going to be Wyatt Sexton, a true freshman who has never played in a game.
The Seminoles also enter the Sugar Bowl without leading rusher Greg Jones, who did so well against Miami but is out with a knee injury. Nick Maddox will fill in for him and gives the Noles a speed back.
Despite all the problems at quarterback and running back, the Seminoles still have explosive talent on offense. They have outstanding speed and big-play guys on the outside in Anquan Boldin, Talman Gardner, Robert Morgan, Craphonso Thorpe and P.K. Sam.
Georgia counters with talent on both sides of the ball.
Matchups To Watch
Georgia DE David Pollack vs. Florida State OT Brent Williams: It should be fun watching these two All-Americans battle all night. Pollack leads the Bulldogs with 13 sacks and 22 tackles-for-loss. Williams needs to give Fabian Walker time in his first career start.
WR Fred Gibson and Terrence Edwards vs. Florida State CBs Stanford Samuels and Rufus Brown: Georgia's starting receivers combined for 97 receptions for 1,690 yards and 14 TDs. They will be a good test for Florida State's talented secondary.
Offensively, the Bulldogs are very balanced. The strength of the unit is up front, where a good offensive line starts five seniors. At quarterback, David Greene has been running the offense for three years and likes to spread the ball around. Running back Musa Smith has a lot of talent. He can run the ball (1,179 yards and 8 TDs) and catches it well out of the backfield.
Georgia is well-rounded defensively. The Bulldogs rank 16th in the country in total defense (306.7 yards per game) and fourth in scoring defense (15.3 points per game). They are led by linebackers Boss Bailey and Tony Gilbert, who rank first and second on the team in tackles and are the only seniors in the starting lineup.
They will look to cause problems for Walker, and help further Florida State's problems.
Bob Griese will be the analyst for ABC's coverage of the Nokia Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 (8:30 p.m. ET). He is a regular contributor to ABC Sports Online.
|QB David Greene led the Dawgs to a 12-1 record and a trip to the Sugar Bowl.|