The Daily Nole

Preview: FSU Invades Raleigh in Prime Time

Mitch White/FSU athletics

Who: No. 19 Florida State Seminoles (5-3, 2-3 ACC) at N.C. State Wolfpack (4-4, 1-3 ACC)
Where: Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina
When: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. EST (ESPNU)
Last Week: Florida State lost to Clemson 37-34; NC State lost to Boston College 21-14

Night games against N.C. State have always terrified Florida State fans, and Saturday’s game is no different. The Seminoles are coming off a close loss at home to the Clemson Tigers, and FSU fans are hoping the team does not come out sluggish against a Jekyll and Hyde type N.C. State team. The Wolfpack have now lost three straight games and allowed Boston College its first ACC win in over a year. Just three weeks ago, head coach Dave Doeren had his team one missed field goal away from a road upset of Clemson. Now it’s questionable if he will last until the end of the year.

If the Seminoles play the way they did against Clemson, it will be a blowout. The offense proved that it was able to score and generally move the ball effectively against a top 25 defense. Meanwhile, the defense seemingly corrected many of its issues when it came to blown coverages and defending the read-option. FSU running back Dalvin Cook continues to inch closer to the FSU all-time rushing mark, and the FSU defensive line has solidified itself as perhaps the best overall position group on the team.

North Carolina State will likely come out one of two ways. Either very pumped up, knowing that FSU is vulnerable and the upset chance is good, or very flat, having dropped three straight and showing little fight in the past two.

The Wolfpack defense is actually formidable: while their near shutout victory of Notre Dame is skewing the numbers, they still rank top 20 in both total sacks and rushing yards allowed per game — two categories that pose problems for an FSU offense hoping to start quickly. The N.C. State offense cannot claim the same ability. Its best ranking is 46th overall in passing yards per game, but quarterback Ryan Finley has really struggled in recent weeks. Lead writer Clint Eiland and editor Mike Ferguson break down the match-up:

All-Time Series
Florida State leads the overall series, 24-11. Jimbo Fisher is 4-2 against the Wolfpack, with his two losses coming in Raleigh in 2010 and 2012 — the latter which knocked FSU out of national championship contention. More than half of N.C. State’s victories in the series come after 2000. FSU still holds the largest margin of victory at 77-17 in the 1995 contest. N.C. State’s largest margin of victory over the Seminoles is only 24-7 in 1998.

Key Players for FSU

Clint: Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas — Coming off what might be their best performance of the year, Nnadi and Christmas can once again prove their talent with another great showing against the Wolfpack run game on Saturday. N.C. State running back Matthew Dayes is underrated as far as ACC offensive players go, with over 700 yards on the ground at 5.0 yards per carry. Dayes did have his worst game of the season against Boston College, but players like him never stay down for too long. If the middle of the FSU defensive line can clog up the running lanes and negate his impact, the N.C. State offense will effectively be shut down once again, just like it was against the Eagles last week.

Mike: Nyqwan Murray — After being used sparingly for the early parts of the season, sophomore Nyqwan Murray came to life against Clemson last week, leading the Seminoles with six catches for 96 yards and FSU’s only receiving touchdown. Murray’s production came in place of an injured Jesus Wilson, who will be out again this week. Murray showed the ability to stretch the field, run after the catch and even make the contested grabs last week. Against an N.C. State secondary which appears to be the biggest weakness for the Wolfpack defense, Murray has a great opportunity to build on the finest performance of his career.

Key Players for N.C. State

Clint: Ryan Finley — The Clemson game proved that the Seminoles’ defense will hereon out force the quarterback to beat them through the air. Is Finley up to the task? While he has a modest 13-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio with 7.5 yards per attempt average, Finley is only a sophomore and has already displayed that he can heat up if his teammates play to the best of their ability. N.C. State will most likely need him to have one of his best games of the season in order to move the ball on the FSU defense.

Mike: Bradley Chubb — Last week’s loss to Clemson proved that the Seminoles have a long way to go when it comes to pass protection. Unfortunately for FSU, the Wolfpack have one of the best in the ACC when it comes to getting to the passer in junior Bradley Chubb. Chubb leads N.C. State with six sacks on the year and ranks fifth in the ACC with 11.5 tackles for loss. If N.C. State’s defense has a weakness, it’s defending the pass, but for FSU to take advantage, it will need to give quarterback Deondre Francois time. If there’s one guy the Seminoles need to account for, it’s Chubb.

Game Breaker

Clint: Can Dalvin Cook Set the Tone Early? — As mentioned above, N.C. State actually has a fairly stout run defense that might throw a wrench in the FSU plans for Saturday. Unfortunately for defenses, Dalvin Cook is a player who defies whatever plan they set out to stop him with. The Seminoles’ offense continues to start sluggish in the first quarter, and starting slow is one of the last things FSU wants to do at Carter-Finley Stadium at night. Cook can be the one to change that pattern and get the offense jump-started early. Doing so might just lead to a bigger margin of victory than most expect.

Mike: How Motivated Will FSU Be? — For Florida State to play well on Saturday night, it may need to dig deep. The Seminoles are coming off their second heartbreaking ACC loss against No. 3 Clemson and with the College Football Playoff and ACC title out of the question and the prospects of a New Year’s Six bowl and 10-win season dangling by a thread, it could be hard to find motivation against a 4-4 N.C. State team. The Wolfpack are trying to get to a bowl and playing at night against a ranked opponent should create an inspired atmosphere. The question is whether or not the inspiration be there on the other sideline.

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