ACC: Alshon Jeffery

FSU's defense will be tested by play-action

December, 31, 2010
ESPN's Stats & Info took a closer look at South Carolina's success with the play-action fake. Quarterback Stephen Garcia has had some impressive numbers thanks to the help of the success of Marcus Lattimore, who's running game has helped open things up for receiver Alshon Jeffery. FSU's ability to contain both will be key in tonight's Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Last week I started looking at who needs to "step up" for each bowl-bound team, and will continue today with the Seminoles. Florida State has a tough challenge in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against SEC East champ South Carolina. The Noles have a chance at the program's first 10-win season since 2003.

In order for that to happen, who needs to step up?

Florida State's defense: The Seminoles are coming off an unimpressive performance in the ACC championship game in which they allowed Virginia Tech 44 points, 442 total yards and no turnovers. Their biggest collapses, though, came on third down, when the Noles allowed the Hokies to convert on 13-of-18. That won't fly against a South Carolina offense that features two elite players in running back Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery. Lattimore ranks second in the SEC to Heisman winner Cam Newton with 1,198 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. Jeffery set single-season school records for receptions (79) and yards (1,387). Even if FSU can get its running game going against the Gamecocks' stingy run defense, it won't be enough if the Noles can't come up with more stops than they did against Virginia Tech.

Chick-fil-A Bowl

December, 6, 2010
South Carolina Gamecocks (9-4) vs. Florida State Seminoles (9-4)

Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

South Carolina take by SEC blogger Chris Low: South Carolina had only played one game indoors in its entire history prior to last Saturday’s 56-17 loss to Auburn in the SEC championship game.

Now, the Gamecocks (9-4) will play their second game indoors in less than a month, as they return to the Georgia Dome to face Florida State on Dec. 31 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Merely getting to the SEC championship game was an accomplishment for the Gamecocks when you consider they’d never previously been. Their performance would suggest they didn’t belong, but a lot of that had to do with Auburn.

South Carolina has some of the finest young talent in the SEC in freshman running back Marcus Lattimore, sophomore receiver Alshon Jeffery and sophomore cornerback Stephon Gilmore, although Gilmore is coming off a rough outing in the SEC championship game.

When Lattimore has had big games this season, the Gamecocks have won.

Defensively, they’ve been shredded through the air and were again against Cam Newton and Auburn last Saturday. But they’re good up front and led the SEC with 39 sacks this season. Their undoing has been giving up too many big plays, and they’ve also been an inconsistent tackling team.

Florida State take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Overall, it’s been an impressive season for Florida State, considering the Seminoles won nine games, finished 6-2 in the ACC, won the Atlantic Division and played for the league title in Jimbo Fisher’s first year as a head coach.

Still, this is the consolation prize for the Seminoles, the runners-up in the ACC championship game, and it’s not going to get any easier. Florida State’s defense, which has made significant strides this year under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops, couldn’t find an answer for Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the 44-33 loss to the Hokies. It’s going to have to find one for standout South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery.

The Seminoles rank No. 2 in the nation sacks and are No. 17 in tackles for loss, but really struggled to get Virginia Tech off the field on third downs. Florida State has also had problems at quarterback, where starter Christian Ponder missed the title game because blood was found in the fluid drained from his elbow last week. Backup E.J. Manuel threw for almost 300 yards but had two interceptions in his place.

FSU was also held to just 53 rushing yards against Virginia Tech, so there are plenty of areas for improvement heading into the final game of the season, but also much to build on for next year.