Game Preview and Prediction: FSU vs N.C. St.

Saturday is a pivotal game for both Florida State and North Carolina State as both teams are trying to stay afloat in ACC play and both try to remain in the bowl picture. NoleDigest looks at the key match-ups in this game and predicts who'll win Saturday afternoon.

Entering Saturday's game, both Florida State and N.C. State have been up and down throughout this season. Florida State is coming off a big Thursday night comeback win against North Carolina, while the Wolfpack are coming in riding a 3 game losing streak after a big win against Pittsburgh. Both teams need this win badly as the loser drops to 3-5 with 4 conference loses, and a loss just about makes it impossible to become bowl eligible.

These teams are similar in both have strong offenses and defenses that have given up a ton of points. There are three critical match-ups that will dictate the winner in this game.

Russell Wilson vs. FSU's Defense

This story has been told over and over again when it comes to FSU: The Seminoles defense struggles against athletic quarterbacks. Jacory Harris, B.J. Daniels and Josh Nesbitt all have dominated FSU's defense this year and Wilson comes into this game playing well. He has over 1,600 yards passing and a 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio. The problem hasn't been the offense for N.C. State.

FSU's defense looked atrocious in the first half against Carolina, but they played their best ball of the season in the second half as FSU overcame an 18 point deficit to win. It is plausible to say the defense was near vintage FSU "D" in the 4th quarter as they allowed only three points in the final 18:22 of its victory over the Tar Heels, allowed only 10 points in the final 47:32, allowed only 11 yards passing in the fourth quarter, did not allow a third down conversion in the fourth quarter, allowed only one of five third down conversions in the second half, and allowed only five completed passes in the second half.

Those stats are all well and good but let's be honest; T.J. Yates may be the worst quarterback the Seminoles have faced so far this year. You can look at ever facet of FSU's defense and say they need to step up here and there. But if FSU cannot contain Wilson they're going to give up a ton of points. Russell is a guy plays off of momentum. He starts well, normally he plays well. Expect him to have an excellent day.

Christian Ponder

N.C. State's secondary may be worse than FSU's and they've been struggling these last 3 weeks. Passing teams have had their way as Duke put up 49 points and Boston College 52. During this losing streak they given up nearly 340 yards through the air and a staggering 10 touchdown passes.

Christian Ponder enters Saturday piping hot. He completed his last 16 passes against Carolina and comes in as the best signal caller in the ACC this year. He leads the conference in every major statistical category and is playing the best football of his career.

Christian has every opportunity to continue his strong play against this defense, but the offense has been inconsistent overall this year. They looked great against BYU, and then laid an egg against USF. They played great against Georgia Tech, but looked flat against Boston College. Even the Carolina game was a tale of two teams.

Expect Ponder to have a game much like the GT game. There really is no reason to think he cannot continue his strong play Saturday against a pass defense that is playing the worst in conference this past month.

FSU's Health on Defense

Granted the Seminoles haven't played well on defense this year, but at the same time they've been bit by the injury bug at key spots.

The ‘Noles got a boost last week getting Justin Mincey back, and he made some plays at a spot that has been weak for FSU. Dekoda Watson looks like he'll be back this week, but it can be argued that his replacement, Nigel Carr, has played better. Cornerback Patrick Robinson is finally healthy and he has looked better the past few games.

In a game that is expected to be a shoot-out the Seminoles need as many healthy bodies as possible. With Budd Thacker out and Moses McCray and Kendrick Stewart still banged up getting a strong game from Mincey is needed. Can he be that guy coaches and fans have expected this year?


N.C. State is going to start out hot in this game and score a ton of points early as the defense adjusts to Wilson and his ability to run and throw. FSU's offense will be able to keep up as Ponder will lead the offense up and down the field. Expect a game much like Georgia Tech this week as both offenses have been exceptional this year.

Like the GT game this one will come down to the defense that can make a stop or hold the opposition to a field goal. In the end FSU's defense has a much better chance of doing that as the Wolfpack have regressed mightily over the last 3 games.

Score: FSU 47 N.C. State 38

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