By Scott Carswell Jr.
This Saturday FSU will travel to Raleigh to take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack at 3:30 on ABC.
NC State is 5-2 on the season and 2-2 in the ACC. The Wolfpack started off 5-0 with wins over James Madison, Georgia State, Marshall, Virginia and Boston College. They have since lost 2 in a row to Clemson and Syracuse.
Carter-Finley Stadium has been a house of horrors for Florida State in the past, but the ‘Noles did manage to win the last meeting there in 2016. Dalvin Cook and Francois led a come back to give the Seminoles a 24-20 victory.
Last year in James Blackman’s first start of his career the Seminoles fell to North Carolina State 27-21. Despite going up against a talented defensive line Blackman 278 yards in the loss.
Observations on the last game
Penalties, turnovers, missed blocks, bad snaps, dropped passes, ejections, bad tackling, errant throws and quitting. I think I got it all. If the Seminoles play like this against any team it still would have been a blowout, but when they play like this against a good team it will end up in a blowout of historic proportions.
James Blackman and Keyshawn Helton looked pretty good in mop up time in the fourth quarter.
Florida State offense versus North Carolina State defense
Francois is dealing with an injury and is considered day-to-day. If he is unable to go James Blackman will get his first start of the year. A different voice on the field with the offense may provide a spark to an offense that has struggled for most of the season.
Going up against Clemson’s 4th-ranked rushing defense did not go very well for the Seminoles and North Carolina State is ranked 5th in rushing defense. So running the ball will most likely not get any easier. NC State is 126th at stopping the pass so pushing the ball downfield will be how FSU is able to move the ball. The deep ball was very effective against the Wolfpack last year and I expect the Seminoles will try to exploit that once again. Tamarrion Terry should be targeted early and often. Florida State’s top receiver Noonie Murray will be suspended for the first half for throwing a punch in the last game. DJ Matthews and Tre’Shaun Harrison will be replacing him in the lineup. Look out for Keyshawn Helton as well.
No offensive linemen were injured last weekend but I expect changes to happen there as well.
Despite losing four players to the NFL draft, the NC State defensive line returns James Smith-Williams and Jarrell Murchison to anchor the line. Hard-hitting and all-around playmaking linebacker Germaine Pratt will be running downhill to stop the run. He leads the team in sacks with 5 ½ and tackles with 73.
Florida State defense versus North on State North Carolina State offense
Ryan Finley is NC State’s quarterback and he is the most polished pocket passer the Seminoles have faced all season. He has thrown for 2,250 yards (15th in the FBS) and 13 TDs with 6 interceptions on the year. Big receiver Kelvin Harman is Finley’s favorite target and ranks 12th in the country in receiving yards at 794. Harman has 46 receptions for 4 TDs on the season. Jakobi Myers, who has 43 catches for 416 yards, is another solid option for Finley. It was announced on Monday that senior receiver Stephen Louis would miss the rest of the season. Emeka Emezie will replace him in the starting lineup.
The Wolfpack’s offensive line features 3 seniors on the left and at center and 2 sophomores on the right side. NC State has only given up 4 sacks on the season. Only Army has given up less. Reggie Gallaspy is the featured back but only averages 3.8 yards per carry. Freshman Ricky Person spells Gallaspy from time to time.
FSU has been able to slow down good rushing games teams this year so I don’t see them having what problem much of a problem slowing NCSU’s attack down. If Brian Burns and company are unable to get to Finley they need to at least make him rush his throws to help out the young secondary against NC State’s experienced receivers. The cornerback depth may take a hit with Lavonta Taylor being sidelined with an injury. Asante Samuel Jr and AJ Lytton will need to grow up quickly for the defense to have a chance to keep the Seminoles in the game.
Punter Logan Tyler was punted 12 times versus Clemson. Hopefully his usage comes down a lot this game. AJ Cole and Tyler both averaged 43 yards per punt. Freshman kicker Christopher Dunn has only missed three field goals on the year.
DJ Matthews was unable to get anything going against the Tigers and even fumbled a punt giving Clemson the football on the Seminole 10-yard line. Due to NC State’s kicking prowess I’ll give them the edge on special teams.
After last week’s appalling performance it is very hard to predict how Florida State will play this weekend. I am usually optimistic so I will take the side that they will learn from last week and play hard. Hopefully they play with more discipline as well. With that being said, North Carolina State has lost 2 in a row on the road and I expect them to come out playing inspired on their home field. The Seminole defense will play like we have seen them play for most of the season to keep the ‘Noles in the game. I don’t think offense will get enough going in the first half to keep the defense out of bad situations. I think the Seminoles will play much better but will come up short falling to the Wolfpack 31-20.