Jimbo Fisher said the changes are quite noticeable. The Florida State coach pointed out several differences in Boston College under first-year coach Steve Addazio as opposed to the team the Seminoles thrashed, 51-7, last Oct. 13 in Tallahassee, Fla.
“They’ve changed defensively and they’ve changed on offense,’’ said Fisher, who will bring his eighth-ranked Seminoles (3-0) into Alumni Stadium Saturday for an ACC Atlantic Division showdown with the Eagles (2-1). “It’s not like playing them a year ago. You can go back and evaluate the players, but not the scheme.’’
The differences are just as notable on the Seminoles. They appear to be playing much better football — if that’s possible after just three games — as they measure up statistically at this juncture with last year’s squad, which had one of the most outstanding offensive seasons in the country.
Florida State is ranked fifth in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 52.3 points per game, and 13th in total offense at 547.3 yards.
“They are rolling in here with a lot of confidence, ranked No. 8 in the country, and it will be a great challenge for us,’’ said Addazio, whose team resumes action after its first setback of the season, a 35-7 loss at Southern California Sept. 14. “Obviously we have to play at a high level here at home and we have to continue to improve.’’
Last year, E.J. Manuel, who went on to become a first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills, was playing quarterback for the Seminoles. Manuel threw for a career-high 439 yards and four touchdowns in a smackdown of BC at Chestnut Hill.
This year, the Seminoles are led by 6-foot-4-inch, 228-pound redshirt freshman, Jameis Winston. He has shown poise and pocket presence in the 3-0 start, which consisted of a 41-13 victory at Pittsburgh in which Winston accounted for five touchdowns in his debut, a 62-7 win over Nevada, and a 54-6 thrashing of Bethune-Cookman, which was held to 60 yards passing by the Seminoles’ seventh-ranked defense.
“I thought he kept his poise in the game,’’ Fisher said of Winston’s performance (10 of 19, 148 yards, 2 TDs) vs. Bethune-Cookman. “Every time he came to the sideline, he was articulating what was going on in the game, what he saw or ‘Hey, we can do this or we can do that.’ He had his ideas, but I thought he played a very solid football game.’’
Said Addazio, “The guy is a really good football player. He throws it, he sees it, he can break tackles, he’s a competitor and he seems completely unfazed by whatever stage he’s on.’’
It will be imperative for the Eagles to limit Winston’s time on the field.
Addazio intends to do so by taking the physical approach and subjecting the Seminoles to BC’s ground-and-pound game led by bullish senior running back Andre Williams, who leads the league in rushing (118.7 yards per game) and ran 20 times for 104 yards last year against the Seminoles.
“I think the most important thing in this game is that we’ve got to be able to control the clock, and a big part of that is being able to run the ball,’’ said Williams, who rushed for a career-high 204 yards in the conference opener against Wake Forest. “I’m excited to run against a top-10 team at home and I’m looking forward to it.’’
Fisher fully expects BC to take the physical route against his defense, which is allowing opponents an average of 251.0 yards total offense. BC, conversely, is averaging 387.0 yards, including 140 rushing.
“They’re very physical on offense — very good offensive line. Probably one of the best ones we’ve seen,’’ Fisher said. “Andre Williams is averaging over 100 yards a game, is very physical, big, 230-pound guy that breaks tackles. Strong.
“Defensively, they cause you a lot of different looks. They trap a lot and bring a lot of different looks. You’ve got to be very well-prepared in order to see the looks and do things, they challenge you there.’’
And that may represent the biggest difference in BC’s program from a year ago.
“They’re having a very good year, very well-coached, play very hard, very sound, very tough,’’ Fisher said. “They have a lot of good players, very tough place to play.
“Any time you have to play in this league on the road, it’s very tough, and we’re going to have to bring our A game and be ready to play.
“I know they will.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.