TSX Inside Slant: Florida State

Another history test awaits the Seminoles. They've been down this road many times, of course, in recent years. It's how they deal with prosperity. The Seminoles (2-1) go into Saturday's first ACC game this season against Wake Forest mindful of past pitfalls.

The Deacons, incredibly, have dominated the recent series, winning three consecutive times until FSU won last year in Winston-Salem, N.C. Wake Forest has won the past two times at FSU's Doak Campbell Stadium. This is also the same position the Seminoles were in last season, coming off a good win at BYU with a 2-1 record and then sustaining a demoralizing home loss to upstart South Florida.

Can FSU sustain solid play?

"That's what we're anxious to see," head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "(To) see if we can remember why we had success last week, going back to dotting the I's, crossing the T's and working hard. We have to do the same thing. It will be the same approach. That's the way we'll go about it."

Fisher got one question answered last week. The Seminoles came off an embarassing loss at Oklahoma to right the ship a little bit in beating BYU.

"I told you it was about how (players) would respond," Fisher said. "Like I said in that game last week, our team didn't quit. Our team is learning to fight, fight through adversity, fight through ups and downs and that is football."

The Seminoles get a favorable matchup to start ACC play. The Deacons will be trotting out a true freshman quarterback in this game and have not been able to reload on defense from their good teams in 2007 and 2008. They were wiped out last week at Stanford (68-24).

But FSU players insist they are wary of Wake Forest, because of past losses.

"They've always had our number," said quarterback Christian Ponder. "My first game against them, that was obviously my fault. By they're a very disciplined team and play with a lot of effort and they're a good team. And they're going to take advantage of opportunities when you give them to them."

After this game, the Seminoles hit the road for the two defining games of their ACC schedule, playing at Virginia and at Miami. Those games will determined if FSU is in or out of the ACC race.

NOTES, QUOTES

--QB Christian Ponder was chosen to the 2010 Allstate Good Works Team, joining 10 other players from FBS schools. The selections were made by the American Football Coaches Association. Ponder was selected from an initial field of 112 football players across all collegiate levels, the largest number of nominees in the 19-year history of the award.

--OG Rodney Hudson was named the ACC Lineman of the Week, after producing a season-high grade of 94-percent in the win against BYU. He won the ACC Jacobs Award last year as the league's best offensive lineman. Hudson matched a career high with 10 knockdown blocks in a near-perfect performance and did not have a missed assignment against BYU.

--The Seminoles are 4-0 when QB Christian Ponder runs for 50 or more yards in a game.

--RB Chris Thompson rushed for a career-high of 123 yards on nine carries against BYU.

--FSU has converted 13 of 15 scoring chances in the red-zone this season, continuing an ever-improving trend under head coach Jimbo Fisher.

SERIES HISTORY: Florida State leads Wake Forest 22-5-1 (last meeting, 2009, Florida State 41-28).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: All the focus right now is on the Seminoles' passing game, which has not produced a 200-yard effort from QB Christian Ponder in three games. He ranks ninth in the ACC among passing offensive leaders and no one envisioned that. But Ponder started the year with some uncertainty, following shoulder surgery, then had his body and his confidence shaken by the blowout loss at Oklahoma. The Seminoles need for him to step up to a higher gear. Ponder has been given a green light to run more, which has been one of his strengths. This might slow teams from rushing him.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Maybe the biggest cause for relief within the Seminoles' program was how solid FSU's defense played against BYU. After the Oklahoma disaster, it was important that FSU show itself and the fans that progress is being made. The Seminoles needed a stout defensive effort, too, against BYU, because the offense struggled in the first half, and FSU's lead was just 13-10 at halftime. Now comes a completely different test. Wake Forest loves to run with a variety of deceptive handoffs and blocking schemes. This will be a good test for new coordinator Mark Stoops on preparing for a disciplined approach at the line of scrimmage.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it gives us a little extra motivation that this is a conference game. It's like a fresh start to the season. You really haven't done anything. And how you deal with success is what makes great teams great. It's how you deal with it every week." -- Florida State WR Bert Reed on the Seminoles' first ACC game of the season on Saturday vs. Wake Forest.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Wake Forest (2-1) at Florida State (2-1), Sept. 25 -- Wake Forest elevated the profile of its football program with success against Florida State in the past five years. Hard to believe, but the Seminoles have not beaten the Deacons in Tallahassee since 2005. Last year's FSU win at Wake Forest broke a three-game losing streak. Nothing speaks any louder of FSU's recent decline than its struggles against a team the Seminoles once handled with ease. This matchup features two of the league's better offensive teams. But the real problem for Wake Forest has been a porous defense.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Seminoles will have to slow the Deacons' running game, which features the usual assortment of misdirection, cut-back traps and option pitches. FSU has struggled in the past against Wake's deceptive offense, because the Deacons take advantage of over-pursuit to generate big plays. FSU was able to regenerate a pass rush last week against Brigham Young, and that would be essential against Wake Forest in rattling freshman quarterback Tanner Price. He's one of only three true freshman quarterbacks to start for a FBS team this season. What FSU must avoid is another sluggish first half like the Seminoles displayed against BYU. The closer the game stays, the more Wake Forest grows in confidence. It's not like the Deacons have not won here before, either.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB Christian Ponder -- How strong will his arm be? Ponder is battling some injury issues, but he can put this game away early if the Seminoles can click with their passing game against the Deacons' suspect secondary.

DE Markus White -- The senior has emerged as one of the defensive leaders, and there will be critical emphasis this week on FSU's defensive line staying disciplined and reading the Deacons' running game well enough to prevent big plays. White has keyed an improved pass rush as well.

LB Nigel Bradham -- The Seminoles' leading tackler is coming off a good game against BYU. When you're facing a team like Wake Forest that will be committed to the run, a middle linebacker like Bradham can shut down an offense if he stays in position and makes himself difficult to block.

ROSTER REPORT:

--QB Christian Ponder has has a triceps bruise on his throwing arm. It affected some of his throws last week against BYU, and the Seminoles are trying to limit his practice time this week in hopes of healing the injury. Ponder sustained the injury in the Oklahoma loss and he's been wearing a protective sleeve over the length of his arm during the week.

"It's a little tight at some times," said Ponder. "It got a little tight at halftime (against BYU). But it wasn't too big of a deal."

--Starting LT Andrew Datko (shoulder) is listed as "day to day" after being held out of the BYU game. Neither Datko nor his backup, redshirt freshman Henry Orelus, practiced on Monday, but Orelus was resting a minor ankle injury. It's not certain whether Datko will be able to play Saturday.

--CB Xavier Rhodes and WR Taiwan Easterling, both of whom sustained hamstring injuries against BYU, were able to practice Monday and should be good to play on Saturday.


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