FSU Football: Top 5 Keys To Victory Against Michigan

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Nov 19, 2016; Syracuse, NY, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) carries the ball during the first quarter of a game against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

FSU football will face a stiff challenge in the Orange Bowl when they take on the Michigan Wolverines. We look at the top five keys to a ‘Noles victory.

FSU football opened around a touchdown underdog against Michigan even though the game will be played in Florida on a neutral field.

Michigan fans travel well, but a source told Chop Chat Michigan fans have purchased around 40 percent of the tickets and FSU football could have a slight edge crowd wise.

It’s hard to predict what will happen when teams have over a month off in between games. If FSU played Michigan after the Florida game, I’d definitely have given the edge to FSU.

Let’s take a look at the five keys to victory.

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Oct 15, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois (12) leaps over Wake Forest Demon Deacons linebacker Thomas Brown (26) during the game at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Protect Deondre Francois

The FSU football offensive line will have to win at the line of scrimmage on two fronts. They’ll need to provide openings for Dalvin Cook against a stacked box, and they’ll need to protect Deondre Francois.

The Michigan defense is among the best in the nation(just behind FSU) in regards to sacking the quarterback. The FSU offensive line got better as the year went on, but Michigan will be the best front they’ve faced all season.

Francois will need to do his part and make quick decisions to avoid giving up coverage sacks as he has done at times throughout the year.

If Francois has time to throw there should be opportunities for explosive plays in the passing game. Be on the lookout for Dalvin Cook out of the backfield to play a part as well.

fsu football

Sep 10, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (80) runs with the ball after making a second half catch at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Florida State Seminoles defeat the Charleston Southern Buccaneers 52-8. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Convert On Third Downs

This is an area FSU football improved tremendously compared to 2015. They are converting third downs 45.5 percent of the time.

However, Michigan is only allowing opponents to convert third downs at a 20.86 percent clip.

That’s outstanding, but Michigan hasn’t faced an offense like FSU this season either. The key to accomplishing this key will be staying ahead of the chains.

In short, FSU needs to win on first and second down to avoid third and long opportunities against this defense.

I look for FSU to pass on early downs as they did against other stout defenses which should open up the run game for Dalvin Cook.

FSU can’t afford to go three and out and lose the field position game.

FSU football

Nov 11, 2016; Tallahassee, Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Auden Tate (18) makes a first quarter catch against Boston College Eagles defensive back Lukas Denis (21) at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Explosive Plays

This will be one of the more important factors in the game. Can Dalvin Cook break loose against this Michigan defense the same way he did against Clemson and Florida?

Can Travis Rudolph, Auden Tate, Nyqwan Murray and Kermit Whitfield find the holes in that Michigan secondary?

FSU will likely not be able to methodically drive up and down the field on this defense. However, explosive or chunk plays makes it do they don’t have to.

Jimbo Fisher offenses have had big games against Don Brown defenses, but the scoreboard didn’t reflect it.

Both have had over a month to prepare their respective schemes, and it will be a critical part of the game.

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Sep 17, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Auden Tate (18) scores a touchdown against the Louisville Cardinals during the second quarter at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

TD’s In Red Zone

FSU football can’t settle for field goals if/when they get in the red zone. The kicking game hasn’t been that reliable, and field goals probably won’t win this game anyways.

The hope is Jimbo Fisher will not be tentative once he crosses Michigan’s 40 yard line.

He can’t settle for 50+ yard field goals. The hope is he goes in with the mindset that it’ll be four-down territory once he gets to certain places on the field.

FSU football has been outstanding once they get into the red zone compared to 2015. They’ve scored 96 percent of the time while scoring touchdowns 75 percent of the time.

Michigan has scored 90 percent of the time while scoring touchdowns 67 percent of the time. Once teams get into the red zone on Michigan’s defense, they score a touchdown about half the time.

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Oct 31, 2015; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (91) celebrates a tackle for a loss against the Syracuse Orange at Doak Campbell Stadium. Florida State won 45-21. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Stop The Run

Against a pro-style team, the goal for most is to stop the run and make teams one-dimensional. It’s critical for FSU to stop the run and force their immobile quarterback to beat them with his inaccurate arm.

Wilson Speight only completed 62.5 percent of his passes on the season.

Michigan knows FSU will look to stop the run, so they’ll likely pass a bit on first down even though they’re a run first team.

If FSU can win on first and second down, it’ll allow their NCAA sack leading defense to pin their ears back and get after him.

If FSU can’t stop the run, Michigan will be able to put themselves in favorable third down siuations like they’ve done all season. They’ve converted on third downs 44 percent of the time.

It should be a great game. Be sure to come back at 10 a.m. for the official preview of the game.

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