GAME NOTES: The top-ranked Florida State Seminoles continue their run towards
a second straight national championship, as they hit the road for an ACC
matchup with the NC State Wolfpack this weekend in Raleigh, NC.
Jimbo Fisher’s squad almost had the nation’s longest win streak halted at
home last weekend against a tough Clemson team, but was able to overcome the
absence of the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and outlast the Tigers in
overtime, 23-17. With the victory, FSU has now won 19 straight games.
Dave Doeren’s Wolfpack are off to a fast start as well. NC State has opened
the season with four straight wins, topping Georgia Southern (24-23), Old
Dominion (46-34), South Florida (49-17) and most recently, Presbyterian
(42-0). This game marks the first time ever that a No. 1 ranked opponent has
played at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“We’re looking forward to a great atmosphere,” said Doeren. “I know our fans
are going to show up and I look forward to that. It’s a great opportunity and
a great challenge for our football team. We’re excited about playing Florida
State at home and I know our guys will be locked in with their preparation.”
Florida State holds a 23-11 series advantage against NC State, including a 9-7
mark in Raleigh. However, the Seminoles have lost three of their last four
matchups on the road with NC State, which handed FSU its last ACC loss in
Florida State didn’t have the services of Jameis Winston last weekend against
Clemson as the talented, but troubled signal caller was suspended for yet
another off-the-field incident. It almost cost the team a victory and a shot
at another national title, but backup Sean Maguire played well enough,
throwing for over 300 yards, despite getting plenty of pressure from Clemson’s
talented defensive front.
Still, the game came down to overtime, where tailback Karlos Williams netted
25 yards on two carries, including the walk-off, game-winning touchdown.
Williams believes the Clemson game was a statement win.
“They play with a lot of heart, a lot of intensity, a lot of passion,” said
Williams. “We found out who we are. A lot of people question who Florida State
was, or how are they? What kind of team are they? We found that out.”
Another player that made a statement in the win was All-American candidate
Rashad Greene. The ultra-talented wideout finished with nine catches, for 135
yards and one TD in the victory. He now leads the team with 24 catches in the
first three games, for 418 yards and two scores.
Of course, the offense runs smoother with Winston at the helm and he will be
back under center going forward. Winston isn’t on the Heisman winning pace he
had a year ago, but has still played well in his two games, completing 70
percent of his passes, for 626 yards and three TDs.
The FSU ground attack has not really been a factor early on at just 109.7
yards per game, but Williams (177 yards, 2 TDs) is a talented back that could
erupt at any time.
Defensively, the Seminoles remain a dangerous unit, although not quite up to
last year’s standards. FSU is allowing 20.0 ppg this year on 364.3 yards of
total offense. Big plays have been hard to come by overall, with just two
sacks and three forced turnovers thus far.
That doesn’t mean the squad is void of talent. It is quite the opposite, as
playmakers abound at every level. Up front, the team is led by Mario Edwards
Jr., although defensive tackle Eddie Goldman may have had a coming out party
against Clemson, forcing a fumble late in regulation, recording a sack in
overtime and stuffing a 4th and 1 to set up FSU’s winning drive.
Linebacker play is headlined by Terrance Smith (team-high 30 tackles), while
cornerback P.J. Williams has All-American talent in the secondary.
It isn’t Florida State, Clemson or any of the other usually offensive-minded
programs leading the way in the ACC, but rather the Wolfpack that pace the
conference in total offense at a hefty 502.0 yards per game. It has been split
almost evenly down the middle, with NC State showing the ability to both run
(248.8 ypg) and pass (253.2 ypg) with equal devastation.
Depth is the key in the backfield, as tailbacks Shadrach Thornton (283 yds,
6.7 ypc, 5 TDs), Matt Dayes (267 yds, 7.6 ypc, 3 TDs) and Tony Creecy (170
yds, 6.5 ypc) have all made big plays.
That definitely makes quarterback Jacoby Brissett’s job easier under center.
The junior signal caller has played lights out in the early going, completing
just under 70 percent of his passes, for 1,005 yards, with 10 TDs against just
Freshman Bo Hines (16 rec, 209, yds) is the top wide receiver on the squad
thus far, but Dayes (14 rec, 185 yds, 3 TDs) has been extremely valuable
coming out of the backfield.
The NC State defense had some problems early on, but things have tightened up,
including last week’s shutout of Presbyterian. The Wolfpack have been
susceptible to the run (158.5 ypg) but have done job against the pass (179.8
Freshman linebacker Jerod Fernandez has made an immediate impact on the
roster, leading the team with 35 tackles this season. Junior safety Hakim
Jones is second on the squad with 28 tackles. Veteran Art Norman (9 tackles, 1
sack) is the player to watch up front for NC State. He needs just 6.5 sacks to
tie former All-American Mario Williams for the school record.
The Wolfpack may be 4-0 on the year, but the team will be taking a huge step
up in competition this week, after feasting on lesser squads to date. The
Seminoles were lucky to come out on top last week, but with Winston back, look
for a little more explosion on the offensive side of things. That should lead
to a comfortable win in Raleigh.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida State 37, NC State 20