Wake Forest at Florida State Preview

Florida State hosts rebuilding Wake Forest on Saturday. Expect the Seminoles to look like a title contender for the first time this year.

Florida State on Defense

Wake Forest is the worst Power 5 offense in the country, and it’s not even close. Through five games, the Demon Deacons average 3.6 yards per play, the third-worst overall mark in FBS. To put that in perspective, a defense that allowed 3.6 yards per play would currently rank third in the FBS. In other words, the average defense playing Wake Forest looks like the third-best defense in the country.

And that’s against Louisiana Monroe, Gardner-Webb, Utah State, Army, and Louisville—not exactly the SEC West. It’s going to be ugly on that side of the ball. Last week, the Louisville defense held Wake to 1.8 YPP and forced four turnovers; the results should be comparable against Florida State’s first unit.

The only question is how much we see of the Seminoles’ starters. If I were Jimbo Fisher, I would aim to get important defenders like Mario Edwards, Jr., Eddie Goldman, Ronald Darby, and P.J. Williams out of the game as soon as possible to protect against possible injury against a putrid offense. This is the game to give youngsters like Derrick Nnadi, DeMarcus Christmas, Rick Leonard, Keith Bryant, and a host of young linebackers and defensive backs as many reps as possible.

As a result, don’t be surprised if FSU’s overall defensive numbers fall short of Louisville’s dominating effort (the Cards couldn’t move the ball on offense, so they needed every bit of that defensive domination), with Wake perhaps making a play or two against the Seminoles’ backups’ backups. I expect about 1.5 YPP against the starters and around 2.5 YPP on the game overall, with the Deacons’ total yardage ending up around 150. Wake shouldn’t score unless it’s off a turnover or very late in the game.

Florida State’s national defensive rankings are down after facing the toughest slate of any unbeaten team through September, but this game should be just what the doctor ordered, vaulting the ‘Noles up those statistical categories.

The most interesting part of the game on this side of the ball will be the return of OLB Markuss Eligwe, who is scheduled to get between 20 and 40 snaps in his first action since offseason Lisfranc surgery. Eligwe’s return to solid play is critical to the defense’s development as the season moves forward, so we’ll be keeping an eye on how explosive and disruptive he looks in those snaps.

Florida State on Offense

On the other side of the ball, Wake Forest actually has a respectable defense, ranking 22nd nationally giving up 4.63 YPP. That’s all the more impressive given the lack of support they’ve gotten from their offense. That said, the numbers are not quite as good once adjusted for opponent, as the Deacons’ defense only ranks 65th in Football Outsiders’ Defensive S&P+ ranking.

The Deacons are best against the pass, as both of their corners, Merrill Noel and Kevin Johnson, will likely be drafted. But the rest of the defense, while solid, simply doesn’t match up with the Seminoles athletically, and there’s basically no way they hold up long given the predicaments their offense will put them in.

Florida State actually only averaged 4.1 yards per play against Wake Forest in 2013, the lowest output on the year. But that was largely because the Deacons turned it over seven times and gave up 59 points on the combination of short fields, defensive scores, and special teams touchdowns.

Again, the best thing FSU can do here is be ruthlessly efficient early and get the starters off the field early, giving Sean Maguire, the second-team offensive line, and young receivers Travis Rudolph, Ermon Lane, and Javon Harrison a full half of game experience. I expect the offense to average around 7 YPP in this one overall as the game gets out of reach early.

If I were Fisher, I’d focus on the running game with the starters, as that component started to get in rhythm late at NC State and is crucial to the Seminoles’ success late in the season. I’d also play the young receivers early and often, with senior starters Rashad Greene and Christian Green playing very little as they have little to gain by playing more here.

Predictions

Jason: This is the game where FSU should look like they’re back to 2013 form, regardless of whether that’s true. I expect this game to be over by halftime as the Noles roll, 55-3.

Wayne: This game should be a very comfortable win for Florida State. While the Wake Forest defense does a good job of forcing turnovers, there is only one way to describe the Wake Forest offense.

Nothing more needs to be said. Noles crush the Demon Deacons 56-7.

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