Why to watch: Although Florida State isn't back, it sure did stage an important turnaround last Thursday in Chapel Hill. Trailing 24-6 in the third quarter, the Seminoles channeled the glory days for a brief moment, stunning Carolina, 30-27. Was it a flash of brilliance or the beginning of a rally? We'll all get a much better read on this program's trajectory over the next few weeks. There's no debating where NC State is headed these days. After peaking with a comeback win over Pittsburgh on Sept. 26, the Wolfpack has yet to taste victory, dropping three straight league games. Even worse, it was blown out by Duke and Boston College, of all teams, in the two weeks leading up to last Saturday's bye. If the bounce back doesn't happen in Tallahassee, this could wind up being a lost year for Tom O'Brien and his squad.
Why NC State might win: Florida State shut down Carolina QB T.J. Yates a week ago. Russell Wilson is not Yates. And the Seminole pass defense is still among the worst in the nation. With its back against the wall, the Pack will hand the ball to its most reliable weapon and ask him to win the game. He's the type of leader and dual-threat, who just might do it, too. He's also the catalyst of the nation's No. 26 passing attack, with the help of receivers Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer, TE George Bryan, and RB Toney Baker swinging out of the backfield.
Why Florida State might win: In an interesting battle between athletic signal-callers, the edge goes to the Seminoles. Christian Ponder is quietly having a fantastic junior season, ranking No. 9 nationally in passing efficiency and basically carrying the team on his back. In the last three weeks alone, he's thrown for eight touchdowns and well over 1,000 yards. He's also a threat to run the ball on a Wolfpack defense that has been miserable over the last month. The nation's 100th-ranked pass efficiency defense also yielded 264 yards on the ground to Boston College's Montel Harris two weeks ago. A soft NC State offensive line will have problems containing the size and quickness of the ‘Nole front seven.
Who to watch: Instead of having one go-to receiver, Ponder has done a commendable job of spreading the ball around to a number of different hands. As if the NC State secondary doesn't have enough headaches already, it'll have to contend with a wave of possibilities that includes Bert Reed, Rod Owens, Richard Goodman, and Jarmon Fortson. If you shut one of these guys down, another will emerge in his place.
What will happen: Regardless of what happened in Chapel Hill, no one believes Florida State is suddenly vintage Florida State again. Still, that performance last Thursday night was the kind of shot-in-the-arm that could last for a while, especially versus a slumping Wolfpack team. Ponder will remain hot at the expense of a flimsy NC State defense, accounting for three touchdowns in a game that'll be out of reach by late in the third quarter.
CFN Prediction: Florida State 37 … NC State 21 ... Line: Florida State -7.5
Must See Rating: (The Damned United 5 … Cougar Town 1) … 2.5