GAMEDAY: NC State vs. Florida State

NC State (5-2) returns to the field tonight looking to knock off Florida State (6-1) in Carter-Finley Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm, and the game will be televised on ESPN.

NC State vs. Florida State
Thursday, October 28, 2010
7:30 pm (EST), ESPN
Raleigh, NC
Carter-Finley Stadium

NC State Links
Official Site

Florida State Links
Game Notes

CFN's Take

Florida State (6-1) at NC State (5-2) Oct. 28, 7:30 ET, ESPN

Here's The Deal … First place in the ACC Atlantic will be at stake when Florida State makes the trip north to Raleigh on Thursday. The Seminoles come out of their break among the nation's hottest teams, winners of five straight by an average of 22 points going back to the Week 2 debacle at Oklahoma. They were a little sluggish in their most recent victory over Boston College, but will essentially punch a ticket for Charlotte on Dec. 4 with a sixth straight win this week.

NC State is looking to recover from its worst game of the year, a 33-27 loss at East Carolina. At least the Pirates don't count as a conference loss, the lone silver lining from two weeks ago. This is a huge moment in the season for the Pack, which cracked the Top 25 at 4-0, but will squander most of its equity with a third loss in the last four games.

Why Florida State Might Win: Cracks have begun to appear in the NC State defense, which was battered on the ground by Virginia Tech and through the air by East Carolina. The Pack has talent on that side of the ball, but just not enough consistency. The ‘Noles possess the balance and the veteran O-line to capitalize, sporting the league's third-best running game and a well-rested Christian Ponder at quarterback. They'll run right at the defense with fresh legs, courtesy of Jermaine Thomas, Chris Thompson, and Ty Jones. When State has the ball, it'll worry more than normal about a sub par offensive line. That star-less unit must find a way to corral DE Brandon Jenkins and the rest of a Florida State defense that leads the country in sacks.

Why NC State Might Win: Ponder isn't at full-strength, which means the Wolfpack will have an edge at the most important position on the field. No, Russell Wilson has not been flawless over the past month, throwing too many picks, but he tends to emerge at key moments and loves the national spotlight. If he can get the ACC's top-rated offense going, it'll feed a few extra volts of energy into the Carter-Finley crowd. Wilson has done a nice job of spreading the ball around, getting TE George Bryan and receivers Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams, and T.J. Graham involved in the action. As good as the Florida State line has been, it hasn't been air-tight in pass protection. Ponder will have to be wary at all times of linebackers Nate Irving, Audie Cole, and Terrell Manning coming hard on the blitz.

What To Watch Out For: Just how bad is Ponder's elbow? He injured the bursa sac in his throwing arm and was in obvious pain in the Boston College game. While the time off has helped, no one knows for sure how close to 100% he'll be or how much zip he'll have on his passes. With the heat that NC State can bring from the second level, don't be shocked to see backup QB E.J. Manuel at some point on Thursday night.

What Will Happen: Remaining hot is going to be a huge challenge for Florida State this week. It always is when a team goes on the road on a Thursday night, especially when a divisional lead hangs in the balance. The difference for the Seminoles will be their advantage at the point of attack, which is significant. They'll run the ball to take heat off Ponder and flush Wilson from the pocket, escaping with a well-earned win against a motivated host.

CFN Prediction: Florida State 34 … NC State 27 … … Line: FSU -4

Must See Rating: NBA Opening Night – 5 … Teen Mom -1 … 3.5

NC State Game Notes

Florida State is currently leading the standings in the ACC's Atlantic Division standings, posting a 4-0 mark, while the Wolfpack is tied for second at 2-1.

The Wolfpack has won its only matchup this season against a rival in its own division (Boston College) and is 1-1 so far this season against the Coastal half of the league, winning at Georgia Tech and falling to Virginia Tech. The only other contest against a Coastal Division opponent this season will be the Nov. 20 game at North Carolina.

NC State and Florida State have met 30 times on the gridiron, with the Seminoles holding a 21-9 advantage. The Wolfpack and Seminoles met from 1952-57, from 1963-69, and then resumed a yearly rivalry when Florida State joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1992.

In 2001, NC State became the first ACC team to beat Florida State in Tallahassee since FSU joined the ACC with a 34-28 win, then followed that up with a 20-15 win in 2005 to become the first ACC team to defeat the Seminoles at their house twice.

NC State has dropped its last three matchups against Florida State and in each of those contests, the Seminoles were unranked in the polls. But in the previous five contests between the two schools, all of which featured a ranked Seminole squad, NC State came out on the winning end of three of them.

Although Florida State holds a definite advantage in the overall series with NC State (21-9), the Seminoles hold just a 5-4 edge in the last nine matchups. And in eight of those nine contests, the score was decided by 10 points or less. The average margin in those nine games has been just 7.4 points.

Last season in Tallahassee, it was a shootout, with the ‘Noles coming out on top, 45-42. The teams combined for over 1,000 yards of total offense (538 for NC State, 555 for FSU) and the Wolfpack's Russell Wilson threw for 349 and a career-best five touchdowns.

NC State enters the eighth game of the 2010 season with some of the best offensive marks in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Wolfpack currently leads the league in pass offense (312.6 ypg) and total offense (448.9 ypg) and ranks second in scoring offense (36.0 ppg), just one point behind league-leader Virginia Tech. Those marks would rank among the top two in school history in each of those categories if the season ended today.

NC State is leading the ACC in scoring offense this week and is getting that scoring from many different spots. Fourteen different players have scored touchdowns for the Wolfpack this season, a mark that ties as the fourth-highest in the nation. Four players have crossed the goal line four times each, while nine have scored two or more TDs.

In terms of positions, wide receivers (6), halfbacks (3), fullbacks (1), tight ends (1), defensive backs (2) and a quarterback (1) have been responsible for the Wolfpack's 31 TDs this season.

In 25 of the 57 years since the ACC was formed, NC State has scored fewer touchdowns for the season than the Pack has already scored in seven games in 2010.

The main thing that stands out about NC State's wide receiving corps is that it's very talented. Two members of that unit, Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams, rank among the all-time greats in Wolfpack history in receptions and receiving yardage, alongside names like Torry Holt and Jerricho Cotchery.

Together, that group has caught 107 passes this season (60% of the team's total) and gained 1,523 yards (70% of the team's total).

But what stands out just as obviously is that the group often looks down on its competition. The Wolfpack's wide receiving corps (wideouts who have caught at least one catch in 2010) boasts an average height of 6'3. That mark is the second-highest among ACC schools (for wide receivers who have caught a pass in 2010).

Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson enters the Florida State game leading the ACC in passing yards with 303.4 per game and total offense with 332.0 per contest. Those marks rank fifth and fourth respectively in the BCS this week. He is averaging 55.3 more passing yards per game and 65.9 more yards of total offense than any other ACC quarterback. Wilson has three more touchdown passes than any other ACC signal caller (Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor has 15 but has played in eight games).

NC State's receiving corps was highly touted entering the 2010 season, with senior wideouts Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams and tight end George Bryan getting the lion's share of the attention.

And although those three players lead the team in receptions this season with 34, 27 and 20 respectively, they are just three of many who are contributing to the Wolfpack's high-powered aerial attack.

Sixteen different players have caught passes this season and seven have tallied double-digit reception totals. In five of the seven games in 2010, passes have been caught by 10 or more different players.

Ten different players have at least one touchdown catch this season. Williams leads the way with three TD receptions.

Redshirt junior quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown 66 career touchdowns, the second-best mark in school history. His touchdown-to-interception ratio of 3.1 to 1 is better than even Philip Rivers, the Wolfpack's all-time record-holder in every passing category, as Wilson has thrown just 21 picks.

To illustrate just how strong that number is, the other 15 quarterbacks in ACC history with 50+ TD passes have a collective ratio of 1.6:1. In other words, Wilson's ratio is almost double the average amassed by the 15 most accomplished QBs in league history.

In the last three games, Wilson has thrown eight interceptions - 38% of the interceptions thrown in his 31-game career.

NC State continues to lead the ACC and ranks sixth nationally in third-down conversion defense this week. The Wolfpack's feisty defensive unit is allowing the opposition to convert on just 28.7% of it's third-down attempts (27 of 94). The Wolfpack has forced the opposition into 30 three-and-outs this season, an average of 4.29 per game. That mark is tied for seventh nationally this week.

The Wolfpack's Russell Wilson and Florida State's Christian Ponder have a lot in common. Both have put up impressive numbers during their respective careers. Both have graduated from their respective universities and both have received national recognition.

Florida State Game Notes

‘Noles seek to extend streak against ‘Pack
Florida State will seek its fourth consecutive victory over NC State when the teams meet Thursday, Oct. 28 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C. The Seminoles have rattled off three consecutive wins against the Wolf- pack, including last season's thrilling 45-42 victory at Doak Campbell Stadium.

FSU's current three-game win streak is its longest against NC State since winning eight in a row (1968-69, 1992-1997). It began after the Wolfpack won four of the previous six meetings. NC State has more Atlantic Coast Conference victories (five) against the Seminoles than any other league opponent, with its last triumph com- ing in 2006 at Carter-Finley.

Thursday night regulars
Though Florida State has played only one Thursday night ESPN game at home since joining the ACC (Clemson, 2002), weekday games at NC State have become quite common. The Oct. 28 contest marks the fourth consecutive time the Wolfpack have played host to the Seminoles on Thursday night at Carter-Finley Stadium (2004, '06, '08, '10). FSU also traveled to Raleigh for a Thursday night game in 1996. The Seminoles are 3-1 on Thursday's against the Wolfpack.

FSU has mixed Thursday results
The Seminoles, who will be making their 12th Thursday night football appearance against NC State, have had their ups and downs with the weeknight encounters. Florida State holds an all-time record of 7-4 in Thursday games, thanks in part to consecutive victories in 2008 (NC State) and 2009 (North Carolina). It should be noted that nine of the previous 11 meetings have come on the road, with the lone exceptions coming in 1983 (Louisville) and 2002 (Clemson).

Last meeting was a classic
Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, who suffered cracked ribs early in the game, directed an eight-play, 66- yard, fourth quarter scoring drive as the Seminoles rallied to a 45-42 homecoming victory over NC State. Wide receiver Bert Reed scored on a 3-yard run with 1:36 remaining for the game-winning score. Ponder completed 26 of 40 attempts for 277 yards and a touchdown, overcoming two interceptions along the way. FSU tailback Jermaine Thomas rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns, while Chris Thompson scored twice as the Seminoles amassed 555 yards in total offense. Safety Jamie Robinson collected a game-ending interception of a Russell Wilson pass to secure the victory.

BC victory was significant...
With the 24-19 win over Boston College on Oct. 16, Jimbo Fisher registered his fifth consecutive victory...he joined former FSU coaches Don Veller (‘48) and Larry Jones (‘71) to win at six of his first seven games as a first-year coach...Fisher im- proved his record to 4-0 at Doak Campbell Stadium and the Seminoles moved to 4-0 in ACC play for the first time since 2003... the Seminoles sit alone atop the ACC's Atlantic Division for a fourth second consecutive week...FSU snapped a two-game losing streak against Boston College to take a 5-4 lead in the all-time series...FSU improved its all-time, ACC-leading winning percentage (.818) in league play by moving to 122-27...the Seminoles also notched the programs' 472nd victory, improving its winning percentage to .670 (472-228-17).

First season, first bowl berth
FSU's victory over Boston College se- cured its nation-leading 29th consecutive bowl appearance. The ‘Noles became the first bowl-eligible team from the ACC and Fisher is just the second FSU coach assured of a bowl appearance in his first season, joining Larry Jones (‘71).

‘Noles tops in Florida
Jimbo Fisher's Seminoles (No. 16 AP/No. 15 USA Today/No. 16 BCS) are the top- ranked team in Florida in all three national polls through Oct. 24.

Progress right from the start
Jimbo Fisher's revamped staff has brought immediate results on both sides of the football. The 6-1 Seminoles have made significant statistical improvements in virtually every category, but especially on defense, where coordinator Mark Stoops' unit has made a monumental leap.

QB closing on elite 5k/1k group
As run-pass threats go, Christian Ponder is one of the na- tion's best. With at least six games remaining he can join a group of seven active FBS quarterbacks who have passed for 5,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 yards.

Ponder efficiently leading the offense
While Christian Ponder's passing yards are down significantly from last season, his efficiency directing the offense remains impressive. Ponder has already thrown 12 TD passes, equaling his seven-game total in 2009. Overlooked is FSU's significant improvement on third down and its efficiency in the red zone. The Seminoles are converting 49 percent of their third down plays (44 of 89), up from last season's 46 percent rate (74-160).

His ability to get the ‘Noles in and out of the correct plays is directly related to their success in the red zone. FSU has produced points on 31 of 34 red zone trips (91 pct.) and scored TD's on 23 of 34 of those drives (68 pct.). Those are significant improvements from 2009, when the ‘Noles scored 82 percent of the time (46 of 56) in the red zone, but converted those trips into touchdowns just 64 percent (36 of 56).

Ponder eclipses ‘09 win total
Senior quarterback Christian Ponder has led the Seminoles to a 6-1 record this season, which gives him more wins as the Seminoles' starting quarterback this sea- son than he had during the 2009 season (four) when an injury against Clemson ended his season in the ninth game. Ponder enters Thursday's game at NC State with a 19-10 record as a starter. Only six other quarterbacks in Florida State history have registered more victories as a starter.

A rare two-fer at Miami
With FSU's 45-17 win at Miami, Christian Ponder became the first FSU starting quarterback to log two career road wins against the Hurricanes since Gary Huff in 1971 (20-17) and 1972 (37-14). Ponder directed a 41-39 victory over the ‘Canes on the road in 2008 for his first triumph. From 1960-1972 all games between the schools were played in Miami.

NC State Depth Chart

2010 NC State Depth Chart
16Russell Wilson5-11/201Jr.*
8Mike Glennon6-6/225So.*
29 Dean Haynes 5-11/199 Fr.*
33 Mustafa Greene 6-0/201 Fr.
47 Taylor Gentry 6-2/250Jr.
37 Donavon Counts 6-1/221Sr.
Wide Receiver
13Owen Spencer6-3/185Sr.
6 T.J. Graham 6-0/180Jr.
Wide Receiver
5 Jarvis Williams 6-4/219 Sr.*
15 Darrell Davis 6-4/211Sr.*
Tight End
84 George Bryan 6-5/265Jr.*
82 Asa Watson 6-4/225So.
Left Tackle
70 Jake Vermiglio6-5/325Sr.
78 Robert Crisp 6-7/312Fr.
Left Guard
64 Andrew Wallace 6-5/304So.*
62 Duran Christophe6-6/287Fr.*
53 Camden Wentz 6-3/296So
67 Wayne Crawford6-3/303Jr.*
Right Guard
72 Zach Allen6-3/322So.*
66 Sam Jones6-7/314Fr.*
Right Tackle
79 R.J. Mattes6-6/303So.*
71 Gary Gregory6-4/325Sr.*

Special Teams
Place Kicker
36Josh Czajkowski5-9/184Sr.*
35Andy Leffler5-10/170Jr.*
38Jeff Ruiz6-2/185Sr.*
Long Snapper
59Corey Tedder (punter)6-1/220Sr.*
57Michael Maurer (kicker)5-11/225Sr.*
59Corey Tedder6-1/220Sr.*
Kick Returner
6 T.J. Graham 6-0/180Jr.
Punt Returner
6 T.J. Graham 6-0/180 Jr.
Strongside Defensive End
99 Jeff Rieskamp 6-3/245Jr.*
94 Michael Lemon 6-4/274Sr.*
Defensive Tackle
90 Natanu Mageo 6-3/285Sr.
91 Markus Kuhn 6-4/303Jr.*
Defensive Tackle
52 J.R. Sweezy 6-5/293Jr.*
55 Brian Slay 6-3/290So.
Defensive End
97 David Akinniyi 6-4/262Sr.*
11 Audi Augustin 6-2/256Sr.*
Weakside Linebacker
35 Terrell Manning 6-3/224So.*
41 Dwayne Maddox 6-2/234Jr.
Middle Linebacker
56 Nate Irving 6-1/231Sr.*
7 Sterling Lucas 6-2/238Jr.
Strongside Linebacker
42 Audie Cole 6-5/239Jr.*
26 Asante Cureton 5-11/214Sr.
Boundary Cornerback
1David Amerson 6-3/185Fr.
37 Jordan Monk 6-0/184Jr.
Boundary Safety
27 Earl Wolff 6-0/201So.*
31 D.J. Green 6-4/214 Fr.
Free Safety
30 Brandan Bishop 6-2/210So.
25 Dontae Johnson 6-3/184 Fr.
Field Cornerback
20 C.J. Wilson 5-11/179So.*
28 Justin Byers 6-0/183Jr.*

Florida State Depth Chart

Thanks to NC State and Florida State Athletics for much of the information in this preview.

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