By Scott Carswell Jr.
Florida State plays host to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons this Saturday at 3:30 on ESPN2.
Wake Forest is 3-3 on the year with wins against Tulane, Rice and Towson and losses to Boston College, Notre Dame and Clemson.
The last time Florida State played the Demon Deacons was last year in Winston-Salem. The Seminoles notched their first victory of the season by a count of 26-19. James Blackman threw the game-winning touchdown to Auden Tate with 53 seconds to go in the game.
Florida State is looking to extend its six-game winning streak against the Demon Deacons. The last time the Seminoles lost to Wake Forest was in 2012.
Observations from the last game
Francois was moving well in the pocket and throwing the football with more confidence. With about five minutes left in the half Francois got tangled up and had to be sidelined for a play. He finished the second quarter out the way he started it and the Seminoles had a 20-7 lead going into the locker room. In the second half he did not play the same way and seemed unsure of himself. He had two turnovers, two more fumbles and plenty of missed reads. This raised questions about whether or not James Blackman should have been put into the game. I think Francois is a solid quarterback when he is not hurt or worried about re-injuring himself. Hopefully he is back to 100% after this bye week.
DJ Matthews was able to get space in the return game and even took one back for a touchdown. Catching the punt and then freezing to scan the field was a new trick he picked up and it is paying big dividends. This is something Peter Warrick used to do.
The defense played well but continues to have problems getting stops on third down and long. The defensive line is getting a lot better at getting to the quarterback, but when they don’t get there right away the corners are having a tough time staying in front of their man.
Florida State offense versus Wake Forest defense
The Florida State offense is coming off of another subpar performance against Miami. The Seminoles looked like they were turning the corner on this side of the ball in the first half. The second half was a different story as they managed just 45 yards of offense, zero points and had two costly turnovers. If they are going to improve they will have a great opportunity to gain some confidence against Wake Forest. The Deacons have been atrocious on defense. Things got so bad that they fired their defensive coordinator just four games into the season. In the two games since they have continued to struggle giving up 24 points to Rice and 63 points to Clemson. Wake’s defense is 123rd in total yards per game, 120th in rush yards per game and 106th in passing yards per game. (There are 130 teams in the FBS) The Seminoles are 112th in total offensive yards per game and 126th in rushing. Something has to give so I think FSU will to try to establish the pass early to push the safeties back to create favorable numbers when they start going with the run. Once Florida State shows it can have success through the air, Akers, Patrick and Rasul will get plenty of carries to try to tire out the Wake Forest defense. Coach Taggart and offensive coordinator Walt Bell have said throughout the week they will use more tempo to get the run game going as well.
The lineup for the offensive line this week will be Derrick Kelly, Cole Minshew, Alec Eberle, Mike Arnold and Brady Scott. Landon Dickerson remained out after re-injuring his ankle against Louisville. If the run game continues to struggle against Wake Forest center Beveon Johnson may come into the game while Eberle moves to guard.
Wake Forest does have a couple playmakers to look out for. These include Carlos Basham Jr, sophomore defensive end and Justin Strnad, a junior linebacker. Basham has three sacks and 29 tackles on the season. Strnad has 34 tackles on the year with two and a half of those being for loss. Cornerback Essang Bassey leads the team in tackles with 39. It’s not a good sign when a cornerback leads a team in tackles so look for the Seminoles to target him through the air.
Florida State defense versus Wake Forest offense
Wake Forest uses a run first spread offense. They like to use misdirection and motion to try to confuse defenses. Freshman quarterback Sam Hartman hasn’t developed into a big-time passer yet but is a determined runner. Matt Coburn (289 yards) and Cade Carney (446 yards) are power backs that are quicker than you think but are not home run hitters. Recently named midseason All-American Greg Dortch is very quick and has enough speed to burn the corners. The slot receiver ranks 8th in the country with 46 receptions. He had a huge game against the Seminoles last year with 10 catches for 110 yards. Look for Florida State to use bump and run coverage on him most of the game to try to manage his quickness. Lavonta Taylor and freshman Asante Samuel Jr will most likely be assigned to cover him. The Wake Forest offensive line is very experienced with all starters being at least redshirt juniors. Wake’s biggest strength is running the football but FSU has been very good at stopping running backs this year. Containing the Demon Deacon receivers on short passes will be the biggest key for the Seminole defense. There are not any notable defensive injuries or changes to worry about.
This game will feature two of the most exciting punt returners in the country in Florida State’s DJ Matthews and Wake Forest’s Greg Dortch. Matthews was named ACC specialist of the week last time out versus Miami. Dortch is just as explosive as he is 2nd in the country in total yards per game at 176. Logan Tyler was better versus Miami but the Hurricanes did not pressure him as much as other teams. This was interesting to me because he struggles when he feels like he’s in a rush. Wake punter Dom Maggio is averaging 3 less yards less per punt than Tyler but does seem to get the ball out quicker. Nick Sciba has missed fewer than Ricky Agauyo but has not made a kick over 39 yards this season. FSU has been better on special teams lately but Wake Forest has been more consistent in this area this season.
Prediction and why
Due to some time off to get healthy and learn more about the Demon Deacon’s suspect defense, I expect Florida State’s offense to play one of its best games of the year. Containing Sam Hartman in the quarterback run game and short passes will present a few issues for the defense. Both offenses should be able to move the ball up and down the field but with both teams wanting to use the ground attack the there will be a lot of time used up during these drives. At the end of the day I think Florida State will win 40-20. Greg Dortch will have another big game against FSU but it will not be enough to out score the Seminoles. Cam Akers or Jacques Patrick will finally go over 100 yards on the ground in a game this season.
Starting defensive end Janarius Robinson’s home in Panama City was destroyed in Hurricane Michael. The NCAA allowed him to set up a gofundme to help raise money for his family. If you would like to donate go to https://www.gofundme.com/robinson-rebuild-hurricane-michael