COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- This is just a formality, right?
That's certainly what it feels like here as No. 10 Florida State is playing to clinch a share of the Atlantic Division and earn a trip to the Dec. 1 Dr Pepper ACC title game in Charlotte. Maryland is undermanned and overmatched. It's the nation's No. 1 total defense against the nation's No. 120 (dead last) total offense. There are three things the Terps have going for them here today, though:
1. Stefon Diggs should play: Maryland's top offensive playmaker is expected to return to the lineup today after missing last week's game against Clemson with an ankle injury. Diggs will help keep Florida State's defense honest, as there's no way the Seminoles can leave him unaccounted for without paying for it in some form. It should help keep some pressure off fifth-string quarterback Shawn Petty. Sort of. Kind of.
2. It's Senior Day: This group hasn't quit under coach Randy Edsall, despite injury after injury and setback after setback. Maryland's seniors have been through the firing of Ralph Friedgen, the hire of Edsall, a 2-10 season, and now one of the most absurdly injury-filled seasons in school history. Maryland's 4-6 record is not for a lack of effort. Florida State, on the other hand, hasn't played its best on the road. Will the Noles be going through the motions, or playing to win?
3. Defense: It's been the one bright spot for the Terps this season, and on Senior Day, expect the best from senior defensive linemen Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis, two of the anchors in the program. Those two have played a huge role in holding opponents to just 3.07 yards per rush, which is tied for 10th nationally. Maryland's 6.9 tackles for loss per game is No. 24 in the FBS, and the 2.5 sacks per game are tied for 27th.
Here's the thing, though: This game isn't going to come down to any of those. Those are more just a consolation to Maryland fans and to remind Florida State fans that the game still has to be played. This game will come down to Florida State's pass rush. It's that simple. Maryland has to keep Petty from spending four quarters on his back. Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine are mansters.
Maryland's quarterbacks have had it tough, but the Terps' offensive line will have its toughest job of the season today in making sure it doesn't get even worse.