There is a mystique, if you will, that goes with Florida State games on Thursday nights. Along with the national coverage that comes with the game being televised by ESPN, the Noles usually face a team they're favored to beat, yet they historically have struggled, leading many people to believe that the Noles quite aren't the team they once were. After an ugly loss where they committed an ungodly 7 turnovers, the Seminoles have bounced back with convincing wins over Colorado and Miami (even though the teams were separated by two points on the scoreboard). The game Thursday provides the 2008 Seminole team the opportunity to continue the improvements fans have seen since the loss in early September. This edition of the Seminoles has gotten better each week, and they must come in focused against an N.C. State team that normally gives them fits.
North Carolina State is 2-4 this year with its two wins over William and Mary and East Carolina. With its total offense ranked 113th in the nation and defense 107th, on paper this should be a game where FSU shouldn't have too many problems. The issue with that is that the Wolfpack have long been a thorn in the side of the Noles, and this has been a game where FSU has let their momentum slip due to a poor performance.
A look at the recent history of games between the two teams shows that this may turn out to be another hard fought Thursday game the Nole fans have come to hate:
2002: Chuck Amato's first big win comes over FSU in a 17-7 win for the Wolfpack.
2003: The 50-44 overtime thriller where FSU could not stop Phillip Rivers till late in the game.
2004: In perhaps one of the ugliest Thursday games seen in recent history, FSU's offense plays terribly. The team rides the defense to a 17-10 win that resulted in FSU alum Lee Corso bashing the Noles and their inept offense.
2005: Another N.C. State win in Tallahassee, 20-15.
2006: FSU comes into Carter-Finley ranked 17th in the nation, but loses the lead in the fourth quarter after a furious comeback by N.C. State, 24-20.
2007: FSU win 27-10 in Tom O'Brien's first year as head coach at N.C. State.
The biggest commonality between those games is Chuck Amato, the former head man at N.C. State. Chuck was 4-3 against the Noles, which is the best stretch of games the ‘Pack has had against FSU in a long time. Chuck's familiarity of the Seminole program was paramount in their success. Amato, who played at N.C. State, frustrated the Seminoles each year as he was able to put together some of the best defensive teams the Wolfpack may have ever had. After his firing after the 2006 Amato re-joined the Noles coaching staff. Against the Wolfpack last year one could see how motivated and animated he was facing his old team. With his first chance to face the team he helped recruit at Carter-Finley, fans can be sure that this game means a lot to him.
Amato returns to Raleigh after being fired. This time as a LB Coach.
The Seminoles lack of success during these mid-week games normally has come on a short week, which some felt was one of the causes for the poor play. The young and talented Nole team had a week off to prepare for this game, thus one would surmise that this team is ready to go.
The continued improvement of Christian Ponder and the offense is key as they play their first game out of the state of Florida. FSU is 2-3 in their last 5 trips to N.C. State. Look back at those games and you'll see one of the biggest reasons for the Seminole loss was poor quarterback play. From Chris Weinke's 6 interception fiasco in 1999 to Drew Weatherford's struggles in 2004 and 2006, the FSU offense has not produced the way it needed to get the win. Christian has managed the game well lately, as he's been a threat with his feet. Can he continue to play well is the question? Against this N.C. State defense the FSU offense should continue to get sustained production.
In order for FSU to continue it's drive for the ACC Championship they must get past the mystique of this game that's haunted them years past. The fact the team is young is a concern, but that youth also is beneficial as the young players on this team play with disregard to the recent history of this team. With an improved offense and the number 2 defense in the nation, FSU should win this game easily. But as we've seen, fans of the Noles may have to buckle up for the bumpy ride they'll see Thursday night at Carter-Finley stadium.