The Washington Times - November 21, 2009, 08:05AM

The out-of-town Q&A returns, with Orlando Sentinel beat writer Andrew Carter.

Here are five questions to ponder before today’s noon kickoff:

SEE RELATED:


1. Florida State was picked to with the Atlantic Division, but sits in mid-November still trying to achieve bowl eligibility. What went wrong for these guys?

AC: Defensively, just about everything went wrong this season for FSU. Start with the defensive line. Markus White, a defensive end who was once a JUCO All-American and prized recruit, has struggled to make an impact. On the other side, FSU has relied a lot on Craig Yarborough, a walk-on, and Kevin McNeil, a senior who has underachieved since he set foot on campus. The linebacker play hasn’t been great but has improved of late and the secondary has had major, major problems all season. In fact, the victory against Wake Forest last week marked the first time all season that FSU hadn’t given up any long passing plays. So maybe the defense is coming around. Offensively, it’s the best the Seminoles have been probably since 2000. So if they had even a decent defense they’d be in much better shape.

2. Florida State’s offense clearly wasn’t too affected by the need to plug E.J. Manuel in last week for Christian Ponder. But is the scheme tweaked a bit from the prolific attack Ponder was leading?

AC: Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher kept the gameplan extraordinarily simple for Manuel in his first start. And it worked brilliantly. Manuel threw a lot of short passes — both on slants over the middle and on short routes toward the sideline. Then FSU ran and ran and ran. In fact, Manuel attempted just one pass greater than 10 yards down the field, and it was intercepted. I’d expect the strategy to remain the same tomorrow but there should also be more opportunities to go down the field, if FSU wants to take advantage of them, if Maryland blitzes as much as they’ve been known to blitz.

3. Jamarr Robinson ran for 129 yards in his first career start, only the fifth Maryland QB to crack 100 yards ever. How has Florida State done in containing mobile quarterbacks?

AC: FSU has done poorly against mobile quarterbacks, both in terms of containing them on the ground and limiting them through the air. Josh Nesbitt ran for 140 yards against Florida State. USF’s BJ Daniels ran for more than 120 yards. And while N.C. State’s Russell Wilson didn’t get a lot of rushing yards, he did scramble a lot and burn FSU with long pass after long pass. So that’s a huge concern for the Seminoles.

4. Maryland fans might recall that even though Florida State was wearing 2008 jerseys last year in College Park, the Seminoles authored the sort of performance that made you wonder if Mickey Andrews had built a time machine and got his best guys from the 1990s to come play that night. Considering it’s Andrews’ last home game, do you get the sense Florida State’s defense could come up with something similar this week?

AC: You’d like to think that the defense will play well in Andrews’ last home game but I don’t think it’s that simple. The defense has major flaws and has had them all season. I don’t see those flaws just disappearing because it’s Andrews’ last game. That said, I would expect the defense to play with great effort and passion. But the effort really hasn’t been the problem all season — it has been an inability to make plays. If the Seminoles can get off to a good start defensively tomorrow, maybe that carries over into the rest of the game.

5. OK, the inevitable question of the year: Do you believe Bobby Bowden returns next season?

AC: I think Bowden comes back. If FSU wins tomorrow, that’ll be 28 straight years with a bowl appearance. And while this has been a disappointing season, the Seminoles did salvage it somewhat during the second half of the season. Plus, while I think there are a lot of people of influence who are ready for change, I’m not sure any of them have the guts to push Bowden out when he clearly still wants to return. It’d be one thing to push him out after a 3-9 kind of season. But if FSU goes bowling, I think that’s enough to get Bowden one final year, and an opportunity to go out after a successful season.

Thanks, as always, to Andrew Carter for his help.

Patrick Stevens