ATLEagle: The offense seems fairly balanced between run and pass. Aside from being more efficient is there anything new that Jimbo has done this year?
Chant Rant: Almost everything has changed under Jimbo. From the morning after Bowden announced his retirement, the program evolved to be more like today's cutting edge college football powers. When Jimbo coached under Nick Saban, he absorbed what Saban calls "The Process." Jimbo installed that system at FSU and it's already paying dividends.
The Process encompasses everything from a new strength and conditioning coach -- and a different approach to physical development, to personalized nutrition regimens for each player. Jimbo has brought in sports psychologists to do motivational training. He broke down the dressing room division between offense and defense, assigning lockers at random for a cohesive team atmosphere. Practice sessions have a new format and urgency. And, of course, the addition of five new on-field assistant coaches help ensure that the staff is all on the same page, unlike the last few years when there was apparent dissension.
ATLeagle: After years of playing man under Andrews, you are playing much more zone. Do you think the team will still be able to generate pressure on BC?
Chant Rant: True, Mickey Andrew’s trademark was man-to-man, while Stoops has installed the zone as he knows it. But saying the Noles are all-zone all-the-time would be off-target. As defensive players have become more familiar with the system, Stoops has been able to throw more surprises at opponents, from mixing up zone and man coverage to creative blitz packages. One result is sacks -- enough to lead the nation. Jimbo Fisher emphasizes that those sacks are coming from three different areas: A fierce rush by the front four, blitzes, and by WR-blanketing coverage. So while offensive coordinators and QBs had little doubt about what to expect from Andrews’ defense -- especially in recent years -- Stoops is throwing curves and change-ups.
ATLeagle: I know you are only half a season into the Fisher era, but do you think he has Florida State back on a path to dominance? What is benchmarks are you looking for as he builds the team?
Chant Rant: For FSU fans there's just one benchmark that really counts, and that's beating the hated rivals from Gainesville (aka, the gators). Bobby Bowden did it in his second year at the helm of the Noles. As the season develops, FSU fans are becoming emboldened enough to think Fisher could do it in his first year.
Sure, ACC Championships are fine. And having a shot at a national title again would be a dream come true. But it all begins and ends with beating Florida. And because Urban Meyer's team has been a major factor in the championship race in recent years, a win over UF would be a key factor in Florida State's return to national prominence.
ATLeagle: What is your prediction for the game?
Chant Rant: It's easy for odds makers and sportswriters to predict an FSU win coming off Jimbo's first-year signature win over Miami. But this game has the recipe for a major emotional letdown by the Noles. Add to that the physical factor. As a contact inside the program told me before the game, "This will be a black and blue game, after which players on both teams will spend three days in the hot tubs."
On the other side, I expect B.C. to be fired up with something to prove to the ACC and the nation. So while I look for an FSU win, it won't be easy and could be down to the wire. Especially if the Noles start out unfocused and still recovering from the bumps and bruises of last Saturday.