The Daily Nole

FSU’s Biggest Questions for Northern Illinois

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By game four, it’s typically expected that a team’s identity will be figured out. Yet Florida State has arrived at its home game vs. Northern Illinois and is still struggling to do so. Whether it’s due to injuries or any number of factors, the Seminoles continue to have more questions than answers.

Three of those questions stick out for the upcoming match-up against the Huskies. Florida State is favored by multiple scores, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Why is that? We break it down below:

What’s The Offensive Game Plan?

This question could be broken down into three distinct sections: the offensive line, the passing game, and the running game. All three have genuine uncertainties after getting blown out by Syracuse on Saturday, 30-7.

What’s left to say about the line? It is down two starters, playing a defensive tackle who converted to guard in fall camp, shuffling guards into tackle positions, and more. Not a single coach could turn this situation into a productive offense. Against a Northern Illinois team which boasts an All-American defensive end in Sutton Smith along with quality depth, all you can really hope for is that they play aggressive.

Quarterback Deondre Francois can help the effort with quick decision making and exploiting the mismatches in the secondary. He’s banged up because of the offensive line, but he’s still misreading option plays and his inaccuracy makes the offense look worse than it really is. FSU’s best chance for production might be Francois throwing it 35-plus times.

It’s hard to see any way for FSU to get the run game going. The Huskies have done very well against better Power 5 offenses who aren’t dangerously close to having walk-ons start. Will it be either Cam Akers or Jacques Patrick trying to provide the spark? Will it even matter?

Can The Defense Hold Out Much Longer?

Numbers provide a very bleak picture for the Northern Illinois offense on Saturday afternoon. Against arguably worse defenses in Iowa and Utah, the Huskies managed just 13 combined points. In addition to an overwhelming talent disadvantage, the Huskies enter Doak Campbell Stadium with no clear offensive plan to speak of.

This would be beneficial for the Seminoles if they could rely on the other side of the ball to give them cushion. As it stands, FSU’s defense has routinely been the backbone of the team. The defense is the only reason that the Virginia Tech game wasn’t a complete blowout and that the Samford game was a victory. Against Syracuse, we witnessed what happens when they’ve been on the field much longer than anticipated.

So nothing with Northern Illinois’ previous results suggests that it’ll be able to put up points. But if this game goes into the fourth quarter with the Seminoles unable to maintain a healthy lead…weirder things have happened.

Has The Dam Broken?

Attempting to decipher what’s going on in the locker room is fruitless. Everyone has watched the video of Francois refusing to be helped up by one of his linemen, but that’s only one part of it. There’s a whole side of the team that no one else is privy to — for good reason — but it also comprises a huge part of the team’s performance.

The attitude of the team and their willingness to fight for each other is up in the air right now. Head coach Willie Taggart attempted to strengthen the bonds in the offseason, and we’re about to see how effective it was.

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