Three weeks after their last game, 12th-ranked FSU attempts to shake off the rust against ACC opponent, North Carolina State. The Seminoles will play in front of their home crowd on Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, with kick off set for noon EST from Tallahassee. The game can be found on ABC or ESPN2, depending on location.
After the long layoff due to Hurricane Irma, FSU will have to work out the kinks. More importantly, they’ll have to work through having lost their starting quarterback. Deondre Francois’ torn patella tendon forces them to switch to true freshman James Blackman.
He’ll have plenty of support though, from the sturdy offensive line, to the talented young running backs Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick. Though they found little room against Alabama, those two backs are just waiting to break out.
But they’ll face an NC State run defense that’s been tough so far this season and most of last year. They have lost against the spread every time through their first three games. But even through this, they’ve found a pretty good signal-caller of their own in Ryan Finley, and have settled down on defense a bit after giving up 35 points to South Carolina in the opener.
FSU is 13-point favorites at home, and that spread could rise even more before Saturday.
After such a long break and a leadership change, FSU shouldn’t be expected to win a game like this by two touchdowns. They’re clearly all-around the more talented team on the field. NC State, though, has also had a chance to grow these last three weeks on the field. FSU has nothing to show but bruises from the Alabama game.
Expect this to be an emotional return for the Seminoles, but that doesn’t always result in big wins. They had a lot of problems with NC State last year. They were outgained with 11 less first downs in a contest they somehow eventually won 24-20. They don’t have Francois this time or star RB Dalvin Cook. Cook only had 65 yards in the game last year anyway, and the Wolfpack bring back the entire front 6 of their 4-2-5 defense.
They were 8th-ranked against the run last year, and only gave 31 yards on 21 carries against South Carolina to open up the season. They will make Blackman throw more often than anyone on the FSU staff would like. Though Jimbo Fisher, being the quarterback whisperer that he is, will have a plan to fit Blackman’s strengths, winning by two touchdowns with such a strategy is a stretch.
Relying on short-to-intermediate passes, screens and check-downs won’t breathe quite as much life into FSU. They’ll more than likely win the game, but they’ll be forced to grind it out. Luckily for them, they have a defense that won’t be susceptible to most of things NC State will throw at it.
Finley has played well, and wasn’t all that shabby against the Seminoles last year. But the Wolfpack are going to need Nyheim Hines to step up in the run-game to balance out the offense. Finley won’t be able to throw it 64 times like he did versus South Carolina and expect decent results. Especially with All-American-caliber DBs like Derwin James and Tarvaris McFadden roaming the secondary.
NC State’s best bet is to keep the game a low-scoring lockdown, and it more than likely will be just that. Vegas has the over/under currently at 51. With a rusty Seminole squad, the score should stay around that number.
That’s a good sign for the Wolfpack, who are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 matchups with FSU. Look for that trend to continue.