Christian Ponder(6-2, 222, Sr): 110-182(60.4%), 1,187 yards, 12/7, 57-119 rushing, 2 TD
It has not been the season that many were expecting from Ponder including us at NoleDigest. He has taken some heat, but at the end of the day Coach Jimbo Fisher is exactly right. He is doing the things that it takes to win. He is a little banged up with a bursa sac elbow injury, but he threw on Saturday and appears to be a go for Thursday night. He can break out at any time.
Russell Wilson (5-11, 205, Jr): 170-294(57.8%), 2,124 yards, 18/9. 69-200 rushing, 2 TD
The Wolfpack are going to operate out of the shotgun which utilizes Wilson's athleticism and helps negate some of his "lack of height". Wilson can make plays from the pocket, but is especially dangerous when he is on the edge. He will have some designed runs. He is having a terrific year throwing the football and has the arm to make all the throws. He does have bouts of inconsistency and the nine interceptions are quite high at this point in the year. Bottom line, NCSU is only as good offensively as Wilson plays.
Advantage: Push. Wilson's numbers look better, but that is largely because he has over 100 more attempts. Both are experienced, however Ponder is less likely to lose the game and knows that he has the stronger defense(how nice it is to be able say that!). This will be an interesting battle and will go a long way to determining the winner.
Chris Thompson (5-8, 185, So): 58-445(7.7), 4 TD
Jermaine Thomas (5-11, 192, Jr): 70-430(6.1), 6 TD
Ty Jones (5-10, 210, Jr): 46-318(6.9), 2 TD
The running game has been simply awesome for Florida State thus far and each of the trio has had their moments. There is more big play ability here as both Thomas and Thompson have ripped off big gains. Jones provides balance inside with more size. The 'Noles will have a FB in the game (Lonnie Pryor) and he addes additional firepower.
Mustafa Green(6-0, 201, Fr): 85-419(4.9), 4 TD
Dean Haynes(5-11, 199, Fr): 72-290(4.0), 3 TD
Green is a true freshmen and was a 3-star recruit from South Carolina(#45 in country) according to Scout.com. Haynes is a redshirt, but was listed as a CB when he signed in 2009 from Georgia Military Institute. Both have been solid thus far and have provided balance to the passing game. Green has a little shake to him, thus brings more big play ability. Haynes is going to get the yards he should and runs with a little more of a physical presence.
Advantage: FSU. Pretty clear edge here for Florida State. There is more depth, experience, and big play ability as well as going against the weaker defense. Being on the road, this is an area where FSU should exploit their advantage.
Bert Reed(5-10, 175, Jr): 34-304(8.9), 1 TD
Taiwan Easterling (5-11, 200, Jr): 22-340(15.5), 2 TD
Willie Haulstead (6-3, 213, So): 18-274(15.2), 3 TD
Rodney Smith (6-6, 222, So): 14-146(10.4), 1 TD
The two big youngsters grow every week and become a bigger part of the offense. It really does not matter who "starts", all will play significantly. Still Reid and Easterling are consistent, veteran presences; Reed made his first play last game and more of that would be welcome. Easterling understands the offense and how to get open. There is a lot of buzz about Smith's ceiling, he has shown flashes, but needs to be more consistent and want the football. The Tight End's have not been a big part of the offense thus far.
Owen Spencer (6-3, 185, Sr): 34-524(15.4), 1 TD
Jarvis Williams(6-4, 219, Sr): 27-421(15.6), 3 TD
(TE) George Bryan(6-5, 265, Jr): 20-240(12.0), 2 TD
T.J. Graham(6-0, 180, Jr): 17-278(16.4), 4 TD
Experienced group here for the 'Pack and there is a lot of size(which could give FSU's smaller DBs trouble). Spencer(30-765, 6 TD), Williams(45-547, 11), and Bryan(40-422, 6) were the top receivers last year and each is better this year. Wilson likes to going to his TE as a safety net over the middle of the field. Williams is from Orlando Boone High School and is a redshirt senior. This is a dangerous group and vastly under-rated on a national level.
Advantage: Push. Both teams have good size, the experience factor goes to NCSU, but there is a little more talent on the FSU sidelines.
OT: Andrew Datko (6-6, 307, Jr)
OG: Rodney Hudson (6-2, 288, Sr)
C: Ryan McMahon (6-1, 285, Sr)
OG: Bryan Stork (6-4, 304, Fr)
OT: Zebrie Sanders (6-6, 307, Jr)
FSU will be missing starting OG David Spurlock until he is medically cleared from a concussion vs. Boston College. Stork will step in and play. Depth has been created with Henry Orelus also having started some games. The line has been excellent for much of the year and is one of the best in the country.
OT: Jake Vermiglio (6-5, 325, Sr)
OG: Andrew Wallace (6-5, 304, So)
C: Camden Wentz (6-3, 296, So)
OG: Zach Allen (6-3, 322, So)
OT: R.J. Mattes (6-6, 303, So)
Coach Tom O'Brien is building a terrific offensive line. They are young with four sophomore's in the starting group, but there is quality size here. Mattes was perhaps the most coveted on the recruiting trail. This will be a great test for the FSU defensive front.
Advantage: FSU. The 'Pack OL will be real good down the road, but this FSU unit has been fantastic.
Florida State is averaging 34.9 points per game. N.C. State is averaging 36 points per game. The 'Noles have the clear edge in the running game while the 'Pack have thrown it better.
On paper at least this would indicate that FSU will work the running game, however most games have seen FSU come out throwing the ball. NCSU does not have a great defense and it would be a surprise if the 'Noles don't score 24+ in this one.
NCSU clearly needs to throw the ball. The running game is effective, but they just are not going to be able to win the game on the ground. The passing game will put plenty of pressure on the FSU DBs. Those same DBs answered the call vs. a more talented Miami squad two weeks ago. Holding NCSU to less than 24 points would be a win for the FSU defense.