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Five things to wonder about in the FSU-Syracuse game

Five things to wonder about the FSU-Syracuse game on Sunday:

Does Syracuse stand a chance?

It wouldn’t appear so. The Orangemen have struggled defensively all season, and with Deondre Francois and Dalvin Cook coming to town, things don’t get easier. Cook is the seventh-leading rusher in the nation. Francois is the 25th-ranked passer, and the top-rated freshman passer, in the country. Syracuse has stayed even with some teams on its way to a 4-6 record, but quarterback Eric Dungey (the 14th-rated passer in America) is likely out injured. If FSU can keep from beating itself, it should win comfortably.

Could Dungey give Syracuse a chance?

Not with that defense. Other quarterbacks ranked in Dungey’s area have given the Seminoles fits, but overall, Syracuse doesn’t have the staying power.

Can Dalvin Cook get to 1,500 yards again?

Sure, if he has a good game Saturday. Syracuse has the 116th-rated defense in America (86th against the run). Cook is seventh in the league. He needs 258 yards. But a tough Florida defense awaits in the finale. The Gators rank ninth in the country against the run, giving up 111 yards per game. To be safe, Cook needs 175-200 yards against Syracuse.

Is the FSU defense cured?

It’s played better lately, especially in a 45-7 victory over Boston College last week. But the Seminoles have played a lot of great quarterbacks this season. Dungey was supposed to be another, but with his injury, it’s hard to see Syracuse mounting a major threat.

Besides Cook, who of the Seminoles is finishing off a terrific season?

How about defensive end DeMarcus Walker, who is third in the nation with 11 sacks? Tavarius McFadden continues to lead the nation in interceptions with seven. Francoise is 325 yards away from 3,000. Travis Rudolph is 320 yards away from 1,000, which would be a stretch to achieve.

Bowl projections: Could Miami play Florida in the post-season?

The latest bowl projections have most of Florida’s teams facing the possibility of staying in-state for the post season.

With none of the schools figuring in the playoffs, most of ESPN’s latest projections still have some intriguing match-ups.

Start with UCF, which will play in Orlando’s Cure Bowl against Appalachian State on Dec. 17 (according to Mark Schlabach) or the Miami Beach Bowl (Dec. 19) against Ohio (according to Brett McMurphy).

USF is projected to play against Boston College in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26 (Schlabach) or in the Birmingham Bowl (Dec. 29) against Ole Miss.

Miami could play either Minnesota (Dec. 28) in the Pinstripe Bowl or face Florida in Jacksonville’s Taxslayer Bowl on Dec. 31.

If Florida doesn’t play Miami, it is projected to play against Nebraska in Tampa’s Outback Bowl on Jan. 2.

FSU is projected to play either Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 or Tennessee in the Orlando Citrus Bowl on Dec. 31.

Again, the predictions are subject to change by the week.

Is it time for Jimbo Fisher to slam the door on LSU rumors?

The rumors are buzzing again. This guy heard from a guy who knows a guy who used to work with a source that Jimbo Fisher is still interested in the LSU job.

The whispers will not go away. The latest reports come from the New Orleans Times-Picayne, who quote anonymous (of course) sources suggesting Fisher, the FSU coach, is ready to take the job if his financial demands are met.

So why doesn’t Fisher just say no? Once and for all, no. He has a job. When you consider how well he has done in recruiting, he has a better job than the one LSU has open. No. Nyet. Never.

Oh, earlier in the season, Fisher said he planned to be at FSU for a long time. But planning is a different animal than pledging, isn’t it? It is time for Fisher to slam the door shut.

Maybe, then, it’s time for the fist-on-the-table, once-and-for-all statement that Fisher isn’t interested in LSU. And furthermore, got it?

Instead, the reports persist. The latest one says that Fisher is “the guy” of LSU athletic director Joe Alleva.

“Jimbo was Joe’s guy from the beginning, and I just don’t see him passing on hiring him,” a source told the newspaper. Fisher was the offensive coordinator at LSU in 2003, when the team won the national title.

What does Fisher, who has a $5-million-a-year buyout, need with the LSU pressure? What does he need with the SEC West and Nick Saban? And when is the last time a coach of a Top 20 program jumped to another Top 20 program?

At FSU, Fisher has a young program. He has recruited well — again. The ACC is tougher these days, but it isn’t Mount Saban.

If I were a coach who was interested, frankly, I think FSU’s situation is better. Unless Fisher is weary of the same scenery, I’d stay put. It’s possible to see Fisher chasing the NFL some day, but not a lateral move.

Will Fisher stay?

We’ll see. Again.

FSU takes big win over Boston College with five touchdown passes

It was supposed to be this easy all along.

By design, FSU was supposed to blow opponents away … the way they did Boston College Friday night in a 45-7 victory. They were supposed roll up 416 yards offensively … the way they did against the Eagles. Their defense was supposed to stifle the opposition … as they did when they held Boston College to 146 yards of offense.

The Seminoles had their way with the Eagles Sunday night, holding Boston College to one of 12 third down attempts. FSU led 21-0 at the half and 45-0 until a late touchdown by the Eagles.

“It felt weird,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We used to do that a lot.”

Dalvin Cook had 108 yards rushing. Deondre Francois had only 183 yards passing before leaving with a injury (not thought to be serious), but he threw for three touchdowns. Backup Sean Maguire threw for two more. Auden Tate caught six passes for 101 yards.

“That was my Friday talk — learning about getting ahead and staying ahead,” Fisher said. “We need to play from ahead and finish, and we did all of those things.”

Cook had been chasing former FSU legend Warrick Dunn‘s record for yardage at the school. Fisher talked about a late-game conversation with Cook.

“I went over to him,” Fisher said, “and said I’d have never forgiven myself if he went out there in the fourth quarter — with what this team can still achieve and the year it can still have — and for him to get injured at the end of the football game. …

“And he said, ‘Coach, we won the game. That’s what I’m here for.’ (That’s) another sign of why he’s Dalvin.”

Most impressive for the Seminoles, however, was a defense that came into the game ranked 72nd in the nation. The Seminoles gave up only 50 yards passing and only 96 rushing.

The victory improves FSU’s record to 7-3. The Seminoles play at Syracuse next week.

The Predictions: Florida might get a glimpse at future QBs

This time, the noise isn’t about the coach who is coming back.

It’s about the quarterbacks who are here.

Yeah, yeah. So Will Muschamp is coming back to Gainesville. Big deal. Muschamp wasn’t especially popular when he worked here.

For Florida, the bigger question is about quarterback Luke Del Rio, who will miss Saturday’s game against South Carolina. In his place is backup Austin Appleby. But what has the Gator faithful interested is the possibility of freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, considered the future of the program. The Gators are coming off their worst offensive performance of the season.

Florida is still leading in the SEC East, but the South Carolina and LSU games will determine their fate.

South Carolina has won three straight games with freshman quarterback Jake Bentley. For a change, Muschamp might not be coaching the lesser offense on the field. Still, the Gators are at home, and their defense (now third in the nation) should have success against a freshman.

Prediction: Florida 17, South Carolina 13

Boston College at FSU (Friday)

By now, wouldn’t you have thought there would be more interest in FSU’s season? But the Seminoles were trounced by Louisville, edged by North Carolina and beaten by Clemson. FSU still can win 10 games this season, but it doesn’t bear the mark of anything special.

The Eagles struggle mightily on offense, which should help a defense that has given up too many big plays. Eventually, either Dalvin Cook or Deondre Francois should make enough plays for a comfortable win.

Prediction: FSU 24, Boston College 10

Miami at Virginia

The Hurricanes seem in position for a late-season run that will allow them to feel good about the first year of coach Mark Richt. They still need more talent before they can regain their lost swagger, but you won’t be able to tell against Virginia.

Miami should win handily and become bowl eligible.

Prediction: Miami 30, Virginia 13

USF at Memphis

It’s a trap game for the Bulls. Memphis is much better than you might expect.

The reason? Despite USF’s dazzling offense, the Bulls have to play defense, too. And they do, but not very well. They’re 114th in the nation, and they’ve allowed more than 30 points per game. Quinton Flowers will have to have one of his better games throwing the ball for the Bulls to pull it out in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: USF 28, Memphis 27

Cincinnati at UCF

Everyone agrees with the job that UCF coach Scott Frost has done. But Cincinnati beat the Knights 52-7 last year. That’s a lot of ground to make up.

This year, the UCF secondary is much better. But if Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville can stop cursing out his fans, the Bearcats should win. A warning: It’ll be closer this time.

Prediction: Cincinnati 27, UCF 24


The Owls are coming off a huge victory over Rice. Running back Devin Singletary rushed for 252 yards and quarterback Jeff Driskell threw for 217. Alas, it was against Rice.

FAU lost to UTEP by 10 last year, so the Owls should pay attention. But after 657 yards last week, you’d think that FAU had enough momentum to win this one at home.

Prediction: FAU 20, UTEP 14

The Pros

Chicago at Tampa Bay

Neither team has been very good this season, but the Bears are coming off a big win against Minnesota. Quarterback Jay Cutler has played well agaist the Bucs through the years. Cutler’s performance will be a big one; the Bucs have struggled against top-flight quarterbacks this year.

For Tampa Bay to win, it has to hope that Doug Martin or Jacquizz Rodgers can play enough to give the Bucs some balance on offense.

Prediction: Bears 21, Bucs 20

Houston at Jacksonville

The Jags played better last week in a loss to Kansas City, but this continues to be one of the biggest disappointment seasons in Jacksonville history. Quarterback Blake Bortles, in particular, has struggled for Jacksonville.

Houston’s Brock Osweiler hasn’t been much better, but he does have the Texans leading the AFC South. That should still be true after Sunday.

Prediction: Houston 23, Jacksonville 17

San Diego at Miami

No, it won’t be a rematch of the classic 1982 game between the teams (the Kellen Winslow game), but it should be entertaining.

The Chargers have played well in spots this year behind quarterback Philip Rivers. Look for a matchup between two excellent backs in San Diego’s Melvin Gordon and Miami’s Jay Ajayi. In the end, however, Rivers should outplay Ryan Tannehill for the win

Prediction: San Diego 27, Miami 20

Miami’s Brad Kaaya breaks slump in big win over Pittsburgh

Brad Kaaya, like his team, was in a slump.

For four straight games, the Miami Hurricanes had lost. And for four straight games, Kaaya’s quarterback rating was less than a 66. For a quarterback expected to go in the first round of next season’s draft, that was frightfully low.

Then came Pitt. And Kaaya was a hit.

Kaaya won the Sunshine State Award this week for his performance against the Panthers. He hit 32 of 45 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns as the Hurricanes returned to their winning ways.

Also considered for the award were Florida Atlantic running back Devin Singletary, who rushed for 252 yards and three scores against Rice; FSU quarterback Deondre Francois, who threw for 330 yards in a win over N.C. State; FSU’s Nyqwan Murray, who caught nine passes for 153 yards; FSU defensive end Demarcus Walker, who had 10 tackles, two sacks, and two tackles for losses; Florida defensive back Marcus Moye, who had 11 tackles in a loss to Arkansas; Miami’s Mark Walton, who rushed for 125 yards; Central Florida’s Drico Johnson, who returned a fumble and an interception for scores; and FAU’s Jason Driskel, who threw for 317 yards.

The Sunshine State award is given weekly by SaintPetersBlog.

FSU’s defense makes key stop late to hold off N.C. State

Florida State’s defense, maligned most of the year, came up with a key stop late and allowed the Seminoles to win a close game on the road.

The FSU defense forced an incomplete pass on fourth-and-12 from their own 26 with 1:09 to go. The N.C. State Wolfpack had a first and 10 at the FSU 24, but four passes resulted in three incompletions and a catch for minus two yards. It left FSU as a 24-20 winner.

Quarterback Deondre Francois had one of his best nights for the Seminoles, hitting 22 of 39 passes for 330 yards. Of those passes, nine went to Nyqwan Murray for 153 yards.

“It feels good, I’ll tell you that,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I feel good right now, I’m not going to lie.

“We’re a couple plays from having a really tough season and a couple plays from having a phenomenal season. We have a young talented team that’s learning how to persevere.”

For N.C. State, Ryan Finley threw for 304 yards. Receiver Nyheim Hines had 11 catches for 124 yards. Running back Matthew Dayes ran for 104 yards on 23 carries.

For FSU, running back Dalvin Cook had 18 carries for 65 yards. Other FSU backs ran for a combined minus two yards.

The Seminoles, now 6-3, play Boston College at home Friday night.

The Predictions: Gators will win another game behind their defense

The Florida Gators face another afternoon of being unimpressive Saturday.

Every week, it is the same. The defense will play well against Arkansas, the offense will struggle, the Gators will win. And the critics will yawn.

It has largely been so this year as Florida has built a 6-1 record and a No. 10 ranking in the AP Poll. The defense is second in the nation, but every week, all everyone wants to do is notice that Luke Del Rio isn’t throwing for enough yards.

Still, Florida has a shot at the SEC East. And that defense should shine against an Arkansas team that had only 25 yards against Auburn. No, the Gators aren’t world-beaters, but they may just be the best team in their division.

Prediction: Florida 24, Arkansas 13

FSU at North Carolina State

The Seminoles have had uncommon struggles when visiting the Wolfpack, losing three of their last five games. One of those came when FSU was ranked third in the nation.

Naturally, FSU is concerned, especially facing a possible letdown after a game against Clemson got away. The thing is, the season has turned rocky for N.C. State, too, since losing by a field goal against Clemson.

FSU might start slowly, but they simply have too many weapons.

Prediction: FSU 30, N.C. State 24

Pitt at Miami

The bottom has fallen out for Miami since a blocked extra point cost them against FSU. All of the momentum the program had regained under Mark Richt has failed.

Against Pitt, Miami should be able to get its mojo back. Look for Brad Kaaya to have a big game.

Prediction: Miami 27, Pitt 17

Tulane at UCF

The Knights, 4-4, are still learning to win. Perhaps that’s why leads against Temple and Houston evaporated and turned into defeats.

But UCF has made remarkable progress under new coach Scott Frost, going from a winless team to one with a shot at a bowl game. Freshman McKenzie Milton has excited fans with possibilities.

Prediction: UCF 35, Tulane 14

FAU at Rice

Both teams are 1-7, which kind of leaves fans searching for a reason to watch. There aren’t many.

Prediction: FAU 9, Rice 6

FIU at Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers should roll. FIU has a chance to hang around for a half, but it’ll be tough to last longer.

Prediction: Western Kentucky 35, FIU 20

The Pros

New York Jets at Miami

Two disappointing teams get together to compare shortcomings. The Dolphins have found success in running back Jay Ajayi lately, but New York’s defense is better than you might think.

Prediction: Miami 17, New York 16

Jacksonville at Kansas City

The Jags are looking for a fresh canvas after dumping offensive coordinator Greg Olson. That isn’t likely to happen at Kansas City, even if the Chiefs are playing backup quarterback Nick Foles. Blake Bortles will keep it close, but the Jags need an impact play.

Prediction: Kansas City 27, Jacksonville 21

Football flashback: When FSU overcame Russell Wilson’s greatness

The season was disappointing. A lot like this one.

The opposing quarterback was terrific. A lot like the Seminoles have played this season.

And the outcome was perfect. Whether FSU can repeat it this week against North Carolina State remains to be seen.

It was in 2009, and FSU pulled out a 45-42 victory over the Wolfpack, always a tough opponent, in one of the wildest games in memory.

For one thing, the Seminoles had to survive the play of Russell Wilson, now a star with the Seattle Seahawks. Wilson threw for 369 yards and five touchdows that afternoon.

However, Christan Ponder threw for 277 and guided FSU to a game-winning, 66-yard drive. Bert Reed scored the winning touchdown on a three-yard run with 1:36 to play.

The teams combined for more than 1,100 yards of offense. Wilson gave the Wolfpack a 42-28 lead with 3:39 to play with a five-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Williams.

It was the final season for Bobby Bowden at FSU.

ESPN writers predict bowl spots for FSU, Florida, USF, UCF

The guesswork has begun as to where your favorite college team will go bowling.

Hint: If you pull for a team from Florida, it won’t be in the playoffs.

ESPN had its two college writers — Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy — outline each of the bowl games. Both writers have the playoff teams the same: Alabama vs. Washington in the Peach Bowl and Clemson vs. Michigan in the Fiesta. Schlabach has Alabama playing Michigan in the title game, while McMurphy has the Tide playing Clemson. The Tide, under Nick Saban, would be going for another national title.

Both writers have UCF, under Scott Frost, playing Georgia Southern in the AutoNation Cure Bowl, scheduled for Dec. 17 in Orlando.

Both have USF, behind Quinton Flowers, playing against Boston College in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26.

McMurphy has Miami (Mark Richt‘s new team) playing Georgia (Richt’s old team) in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26.

Schlabach has Miami playing against Florida and Luke Del Rio in the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville on Dec. 31. McMcMurphy thinks Florida will face Penn State in the Outback Bowl.

FSU, says McMurphy, will play in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 28. Schlabach has FSU playing against Auburn in the Citrus Bowl, also in Orlando. Dalvin Cook leads the Seminoles.

Match-ups are sure to change as the regular season goes into its stretch drive.

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