LOCATION: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
BETTING LINE: FSU -5.5
Florida State Player to Watch
Did you really expect anybody else? The ACC’s worst offense ran for 168 yards against the ‘Pack, a number which Cook could easily surpass. Dalvin is coming off yet another career performance and needs just 192 yards to break FSU legend Warrick Dunn’s career rushing record. Cook has found success in abundance against nearly every team he’s faced in 2016, and he’ll continue that trend against NC State.
NC State Player to Watch
Samuels finished with a lowly one catch for eight yards in the Wolfpack’s loss to Boston College last week, but could be poised for a big day against a depleted FSU secondary. The junior tight end caught eight passes for 100 yards against Clemson, but has sputtered as of late, recording just four catches against Louisville. With Florida State safety Trey Marshall forced to sit out the first half, Samuels may be in for a big day.
Florida State Position Group Preview
OFFENSIVE LINE: Where to begin… The ‘Noles OL just isn’t good, so fans shouldn’t expect much of a change on Saturday night. Francois will likely take several clean hits and Dalvin Cook will have to do much of his work in spite of the offensive line play.
TIGHT ENDS: Ryan Izzo had a quietly productive game against Clemson. While he wasn’t involved in the passing game, his contribution in the running game proved invaluable. He’ll need to replicate last week’s performance again on Saturday night.
RUNNING BACKS: I already previewed Dalvin Cook above, but just one small side note: Cook’s success in recent contests has resulted in fewer carries for Jacques Patrick. This doesn’t mean much, only that Cook’s increased workload is likely taking its toll on #4.
QUARTERBACKS: Deondre Francois was fortunate to escape last week’s contest uninjured, as his offensive line was totally inept against Clemson’s pass rush. Francois also struggled with his accuracy and will need to perform at a higher level going forward, but it’s hard to fault him given the beating he took.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Jimbo Fisher is finally playing his younger, more skilled receivers! With Bobo Wilson sidelined for the second consecutive week, underclassmen Nyquan Murray and Auden Tate are in position to see more reps.
DEFENSIVE LINE: NC State struggled mightily to run the ball against Boston College, a major factor as to why the ‘Pack lost. NCSU will likely come out fired up for Saturday’s 7pm kickoff, but Florida State boasts a much more talented defensive line than BC.
LINEBACKERS: Matthew Thomas and Ro’Derrick Hoskins haven’t been good in coverage in 2016 and will need to perform at a higher level if the ‘Noles are to avoid another shootout.
SECONDARY: This group actually performed quite well until Trey Marshall left the game due to a targeting call. He’ll miss the first half of this contest, so Ermon Lane and AJ Westbrook will need to perform better than they did against Clemson, at least for the first two quarters.
SPECIAL TEAMS: For once, Florida State holds the advantage in special teams. Ricky Aguayo didn’t get a chance at a tying field goal last week and likely won’t be called upon to do so this week, but he’ll need to fix his inconsistency issues.
COACHING: Jimbo Fisher was livid following the loss to Clemson, ripping into the officials and picking up a $20,000 fine along the way. His challenge this week is to avoid a letdown spot in a stadium that has traditionally been a house of horrors for Florida State.
Game Preview Analysis
After dropping a late heartbreaker to rival Clemson, Florida State (#19 AP, #22 CFP) now faces another evening kickoff inside a stadium that has haunted the ‘Noles in previous contests.
The last time Florida State visited Carter-Finley Stadium, Jameis Winston led the Seminoles on a furious comeback, storming back from 17 down to defeat the Wolfpack, 56-41. It was the Seminoles’ first win in Raleigh since 2008.
Two years before, in 2012, an EJ Manuel-led FSU squandered a 16-0 halftime lead, as NC State’s Mike Glennon threw the go-ahead score with seconds remaining.
Needless to say, Carter-Finley Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Seminoles.
“Carter-Finley can rock, and any time this place is packed and loud and you’re playing a great team, our fans, our players get into that, and it creates a tough environment for the opponents to say focused,” NC State Head Coach Dave Doeren said in his ACC teleconference,” In the past it’s definitely had an effect.”
Florida State’s loss to Clemson, their third this season, means that the ‘Noles have already equaled their loss total from 2015 — a supposed “rebuilding year.” Despite the massive disappointments in 2016, Fisher gave plenty of reason for optimism after the Clemson game: “I’m very proud of our football team. If you said, you asked your players to leave everything on the field, I think they did that.”
Florida State must now turn its attention to NC State, a team coming off a homecoming loss to lowly Boston College. “They got a really good football team. We’ll have our hands full going up there to play,” Fisher said, “We’ll be really hungry to win.”
Much discussion in the days following Florida State’s performance against Clemson centered around the Seminoles’ porous offensive line play. The Seminoles have given up 27 sacks in 2016, second only to Iowa State (29). With news surfacing that right guard Landon Dickerson is set to miss time due to a knee injury suffered on Tuesday, the already bleak situation has become even worse. Redshirt junior Wilson Bell will likely replace Dickerson, although the extent of the true freshman’s injury is unclear.
FSU’s offense will be without another key contributor this week, as senior receiver Jesus “Bobo” Wilson has been ruled out for Saturday night’s contest. Wilson suffered a foot injury against Wake Forest and sat out the entire Clemson game. His absence, however, has provided opportunities for younger receivers to prove themselves, namely sophomore Nyqwan Murray. Murray, a sophomore from Orlando, caught six balls for 96 yards and a touchdown and led the ‘Noles in receiving against Clemson.
The Wolfpack enter this week’s contest still reeling from a shocking loss to Boston College. The loss gave the Eagles their first ACC win in almost two years. Doeren’s team will need to feed off what’s expected to be hyped up crowd, much like in 2012, when the Wolfpack upset #3 Florida State. “We need (the energy) from our fans and our students. There’s no doubt, “Doeren said,” I know playing them here a couple years ago, it was a great crowd, and I expect the same this weekend.”
Prediction: Despite FSU’s historic struggles in Carter-Finley Stadium, NC State just isn’t that good of a team in 2016. The Notre Dame win is misleading as the Irish are their own dumpster fire. Florida State’s defensive line should keep the Wolfpack running game in check and Dalvin Cook will have another field day against a helpless Wolfpack run defense. FSU will start slow, and don’t be surprised if the Wolfpack lead at the half, but the ‘Noles will pull away in the second half.
Score Prediction: Florida State 38-20 NC State
NC State Position Group Preview
OFFENSIVE LINE: NC State ran for a grand total of 31 yards against Boston College. FSU boasts a much more talented defensive line than the Eagles, so the Wolfpack OL will need to perform at a much higher level if the ‘Pack are to upset Florida State.
TIGHT ENDS: As mentioned above, Jaylen Samuels is poised for a big day against the ‘Noles. FSU’s linebackers have been terrible in coverage all season, which means that Samuels’ ability to get open will be a huge difference maker on Saturday night.
RUNNING BACKS: As I detailed in the offensive line section, the Wolfpack had little success running the ball against Boston College. However, FSU has been less than good at defending running backs out of the backfield on pass plays, so fans can expect to see halfback Matthew Dayes used plenty in the passing game.
QUARTERBACKS: NC State’s success lives and dies with QB Ryan Finley. FSU’s secondary is depleted and cannot play competent zone coverage. Finley threw for 307 yards against BC but tossed two costly interceptions in the loss. If he’s not careful, he’ll throw two more against Florida State.
WIDE RECEIVERS: The Wolfpack receivers enjoyed a productive day against Boston College, as Bra’Lon Cherry and Kelvin Harmon each found the end zone. Saturday’s contest provides a great opportunity for these two to have a big night.
DEFENSIVE LINE: They’re going up against Florida State’s offensive line. The Wolfpack DL will get into the backfield on many occasions Saturday night and FSU QB Deondre Francois will likely take two or more sacks.
LINEBACKERS: The Wolfpack defense was gouged for 168 rushing yards in last weeks loss to Boston College and a similar performance could prove disastrous against a running back of Dalvin Cook’s caliber.
SECONDARY: FSU QB Deondre Francois has been inaccurate at times this season, completing less than 50% of his passes against Clemson. How well the Wolfpack secondary can limit Francois will determine how much success the FSU offense can manage.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Kyle Bambard has missed four field goals and three (!!) extra points in 2016. Saturday’s contest likely will not come down to a field goal, but Florida State (barely) holds the advantage in special teams.
COACHING: After defeating Notre Dame in the middle of Hurricane Matthew, Dave Doeren’s squad has dropped each of the last three, including an absolute throttling at the hands of Louisville. NC State just handed Boston College its first ACC win in almost two years. Doeren’s got a difficult job to do if the Wolfpack are to upset FSU.