Florida State is in College Park, Md., on Saturday to try to clinch the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The No. 10 Seminoles (9-1, 6-1 ACC) have not won their conference since 2005.
On paper, Maryland (4-6, 2-4 ACC) shouldn’t be much of a challenge for FSU. But on the road this season, things have rarely gone as planned for the Seminoles.
While winning its games at home this season by an average of 54-7, FSU is 3-1 on the road and winning by a much smaller average score of 27-19 as it has struggled with consistency and ball security.
The Seminoles are averaging nearly 200 yards less per game on the road.
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“When you go to someone else’s house, they’re going to defend their home,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “To be a very good team you have to go win on the road. That’s what we’ve learned to do.”
That lesson will be tested in Florida State’s final road game of the season before its regular-season finale at home against Florida.
The Terrapins offense has been in a state of flux lately, largely because of its inability to keep a quarterback upright. After going through their entire depth chart, the Terps will be forced to start Shawn Petty, a converted linebacker, under center.
That should play into the hands of the Florida State defense, which ranks No. 1 nationally in total defense while sitting in the top five in scoring defense, run defense, pass defense and third-own efficiency.
But Fisher and his team are not taking anything for granted.
“Maryland has an outstanding defense,” Fisher said. “They do some really nice things on offense, have a dynamic playmaker receiver, a very strong back. They’ve had some issues at quarterback because of injury but have still been able to move the ball and do things. Special teams are very sound. Like I say, they’re the No. 2 defense [in the ACC], a very good team.
“We’ll have to play our ‘A’ game up there on the road, and we’ll get their ‘A’ game.”
The Seminoles offense has been the unit that has struggled on the road the most this season. The drop-off in points and yards on the road have been striking in four games away from Doak Campbell Stadium.
In October at North Carolina State, the Seminoles squandered away their national title hopes when their offense was held scoreless in the second half of a 17-16 loss. Last week at Virginia Tech, it took a last-minute touchdown to get FSU the victory.
FSU will be facing a hungry Maryland team with its back against the wall.
Although the Seminoles are expected to win the game handily, another lax effort on the road could undo their ACC title hopes.
“They’re going to be playing for a bowl game,” Fisher said. “They need two wins to get in a bowl game, so we know we’re going to get their ‘A’ game. They’re going to lay it on the line. They’re a great defensive football team, and they’ve done what they’ve had to do on offense. Randy [Edsall] is a good football coach. They’ll be ready to go, and we’re going to have to play well.”