1. BC did a decent job of containing Christian Ponder in our game last year. How different is the offense this year with Manuel?
Chantrant: Somewhat less predictable, now that E.J. Manuel is healthy and back at QB. His legs -- whether on a designed run or scramble -- present more problems for opposing defenses. Not that Ponder couldn’t run, but Manuel is even faster, shiftier and tougher to bring down. And speaking of the run game, the Noles ground game is beginning to resemble ones from the past few years. Graduation and injuries on the offensive line made the team pass-oriented and one dimensional during the first half of this season. The patchwork OL -- including a 17-year old true freshman -- is beginning to jell. Freshman running back Devonta Freeman has become a factor, along with senior Jermaine Thomas, who’s a speedy pass-catching threat out of the backfield.
2. The defense gave up big points during the losing streak but have been better against the weaker teams on your schedule. Does the strength of the opponent explain it all or is there another reason why the defense has improved of late?
Chantrant: I think it’s a matter of motivation more than opposition. FSU held Oklahoma to its lowest point total of the season. The next two weeks, the Noles lost at Clemson and Wake by the identical score: 35-30. In both cases, IMO, the other team had all the intensity and momentum, while FSU’s defense was still emotionally and physically down from that bruising game with the Sooners. Since then, the Nole D has regained its pride and equilibrium. Add to that a new catalyst in the form of true freshman NT Timmy Jernigan. His fiery play has increased his playing time and amped up the performance of older guys on the defense. And last week’s shutout of North Carolina State has players believing they could run the table the rest of the season -- IF they can maintain focus.
3. I am sort of thinking the short week coming off a blow out gives BC an edge. Given what the ups and downs your team has been through, do you think there is any chance of a letdown?
Chantrant: Hey, it’s college football, with outcomes determined in large part by the emotions of teens and young twenty-somethings. The Noles have had three strong performances, though admittedly against underperforming ACC teams (Duke, Maryland and N.C. State). But things like the cold weather and a hostile crowd in an unfamiliar stadium can be big distractions for these kids from a warmer climate. All of which is why I don’t believe any FSU fan beyond the blind followers is chalking up the game as a guaranteed W for the Noles. Besides, very good Florida State teams have often played uncharacteristically bad on Thursday nights.
4. What is your prediction for the game?
Chantrant: If FSU can overcome the distractions mentioned above and play close to the level of the past three weeks, the Noles should prevail. I shouldn’t mention this, but B.C. fans can play a big part by firing up their team to play at its best and seize every opportunity to gain and maintain momentum.