Florida State vs. NC State Preview

The last time an undefeated Florida State team played NC State wasn't a positive experience for the Seminoles, but that experience just might help the Noles as they face the Wolfpack a week after a huge win over Clemson.

Few stats better show just how far Florida State had fallen during the so-called "lost decade" than the fact that the Noles are 8-7 over the last fifteen games against North Carolina State. Perhaps even more amazingly, NC State is 5-2 against ranked FSU teams since 2002, including a 17-16 win against the #3 Seminoles last year.

Most of these Wolfpack wins have come in the friendly confines of Carter-Finley Stadium, which to my ear is a louder and more hostile environment than the more highly touted Lane Stadium at Virginia Tech, but even given home field advantage, the fact that NC State has so regularly played Florida State's nemesis of late is remarkable.

Like last year, this year's game falls in a classic "trap" spot, with the Noles fresh off a 51-14 road pasting of former #3 ranked Clemson and potentially looking ahead to another top-10 matchup with rival Miami in a week. This is a different FSU team than in 2012, however, particularly on the leadership side.

Folks within the program have been emphasizing the mature leadership of Telvin Smith, Rashad Greene, and Lamarcus Joyner as the biggest reason this Florida State team will not stumble in this kind of game. The fact that FSU is the most talented team I've seen in person since 2001 Miami certainly doesn't hurt, but one program insider told me this week that those three players will keep this team grounded and "will not let [FSU] lose."

That leadership combined with the infectious confidence of quarterback Jameis Winston should have FSU fans dreaming of Pasadena at this point, as the schedule continues to shape up perfectly for this Florida State team. That said, the Wolfpack yet again stand between an undefeated Seminole team and a possible national title berth.

This year's result will be quite different than what we have recently seen from these programs, in part because the dynamics, though they look similar, are quite different than they have been previously.

NC State Offense

The biggest reason NC State has had an inordinate amount of success against better FSU teams is that they have had a run of outstanding NFL-caliber quarterbacks. From Phillip Rivers to Russell Wilson to Mike Glennon, these Pack quarterbacks managed to get hot and have some of their best collegiate games against Florida State. But Russell Wilson is not running onto Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday. Nor are his three 6'3+ upperclass wide receivers.

Last week, we called attention to the fact that this Florida State defense was built to stop the spread, with its base 3-3-5 personnel package almost the Platonic ideal for an anti-spread defense. The Noles' defense has, however, had some trouble against bigger power rushing attacks on the year (such as Pitt or Boston College)

Fortunately for the Seminoles, NC State has switched from last year's pro-style attack to the same spread offense FSU faced from Northern Illinois in last year's Orange Bowl. That, combined with NC State's struggles on the offensive line and difficulties protecting their quarterback and running the football (only 4 YPC) on the year, is good reason to expect this Wolfpack team to struggle mightily against FSU's defense.

At the end of the day, NC State will have to score points to pull the upset, and I just don't see this team scoring more than 17 points against FSU's defense, even with the return of dual-threat starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell, who broke his foot in the second series of the season against Louisiana Tech.

Mitchell is a huge improvement across the board over backup Pete Thomas, but without the pieces around him he's more likely to wind up on the sideline for his own protection in the second half than he is to lead a comeback. The smallish Pack receivers are simply not good enough to get consistent separation from this FSU secondary, and the NC State line (lacking its starting left tackle) will struggle to protect Mitchell throughout.

NC State Defense

The Wolfpack actually have one of the better defensive lines in the ACC, but the defense has holes in the back seven, especially in the secondary where they were actually pretty good in 2012.

Despite a decent defensive line, NCSU has struggled to stop the run all year, and there's little reason to think this Wolfpack defense will be able to significantly slow Winston and the Seminole offense.

Final Analysis

There's little reason to expect anything other than a rout in Bobby Bowden's return to the house he built. Expect FSU to double NC State's yards per play output (something like 8 to 4 YPP) and get Jacob Coker some second half snaps as the starters begin thinking about Miami. Florida State will roll in this one, further demonstrating that it has moved beyond the Lost Decade and begun a new championship run. FSU 51, NC State 10.

Geoff: I expect FSU to hold NCSU to under 17 points and since nobody can stop FSU, I expect the standard 38-55 points from the 'Noles. 47-13 feels about right to me today. If Jimbo wants to send a message, perhaps a shout-out to Bobby Bowden, maybe it gets as bad as 55-7.

Wayne:The national media has been throwing out the word trap game a lot this week. Last year Florida State gave up a last second touchdown to lose to NC State in a game that still haunts most FSU fans. That will not happen this year. NC State is getting their starting quarterback back this week. Brandon Mitchell threw three passes before he broke his leg in the opening game. Mitchell transferred to NC State after losing the quarterback race at Arkansas.

Everything is going right for the Noles. The offense is rolling, the defense has been dominant in the last two games, and even the punting game has been decent. That trend will continue this week as Florida State pays back last years loss with a beat down in Doak. 52-10 Noles roll.

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