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To me, defensive improvements should be one of the key story lines to this yearâ€™s State/FSU match-up. Last yearâ€™s match-up pitted two of the ACCâ€™s best offenses against each otherâ€™s pitiful defenses. This combination led to the expected track meet won by FSU 45-42.
Both teams are better this year on the defensive side of the ball, but the change at FSU has been quite dramatic:
FSU DEFENSIVE STATS:
Note: The standard caveats of partial vs full season, effect of OOC opponents, etc all apply here. However, the changes on defense in Tallahassee are far deeper than just some statistical anomaly.
If you followed the trials and tribulations of Bobby Bowdenâ€™s last year at FSU, then you undoubtedly read many condemnations of the coaching staff, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Frankly, this table confirms for me just about every negative thing that I read last year.
The changes in Stateâ€™s defense are more subtle and not really evident when presented with the same broad brush as FSU:
NCSU DEFENSIVE STATS:
I included TO Margin since that one stat is probably more important to a marginal team than a few yards per game in any other category. In 2008, State was 3rd in the conference (22nd in nation) and rallied at the end of the season for TOBâ€™s lone bowl appearance at State. Last year, take-aways went on the DL along with alot of starters. It doesnâ€™t take much FB knowledge to realize that turnovers are clearly one of the keys for State today and for the rest of the season.
But of course, the defenses donâ€™t take the field against each other, so letâ€™s use this same broad brush to look at tonightâ€™s match-ups. When State has the ball:
Iâ€™m absolutely positive that those complaining about State not running enough will be heard from again after this game. Or at least I hope that Bible hasnâ€™t designed his game plan to match NCSUâ€™s offensive weakness against FSUâ€™s defensive strength.
When FSU has the ball:
Both of these last two tables show match-ups that will hopefully help make up for FSUâ€™s overall advantage in talent. FSUâ€™s weakest defense unit matches up nicely with Stateâ€™s best offense weapons of Wilson and a bevy of receivers. On the other side of the ball, Ponderâ€™s passing has not been as effective as last year and I put Stateâ€™s secondary as one of its weakest units.
My take on most games has remained about the same for the last three yearsâ€¦if Wilson performs, then the worst-case scenario is that State loses in a shoot-out. On the other hand if Wilson is off, then I donâ€™t even want to consider the worst-case scenario.
if you have not been following the FSU conversation in the forums along with a number of stories on the main blog, then you have missed out on a number of good links to places like Backing the Pack and Tomahawk Nation. For those that want a more in-depth review, I would recommend visiting all three places.