Prior to last season when NC State hung 44 points on the Seminoles in an overtime loss, UNC's 41 points in 2001 marked the most points scored against them by an ACC school. Since then, FSU has outscored Carolina 77-14.
FSU's collegiate coaching patriarch Bobby Bowden ranks third among active NCAA Division I coaches with a career winning percentage of .772 (344-100-4). Currently, Bowden (18-8-1) is ranked second behind Penn State's Joe Paterno (20-10-1) in bowl victories.
Wyatt Sexton (#19, 6-3, 206, So.) gets the starting nod on Saturday, replacing Chris Rix (#16, 6-4, 210, Sr.). Rix, who suffered a right ankle sprain versus Clemson. The enigmatic Rix was just 3-of-8 passing for 22 yards before going down with the injury. Sexton, son of FSU running backs coach Billy Sexton, then took over and went 17-of-26 for 162 yards and a touchdown.
The good news is tailback Greg Jones, whose stiff arm on Dexter Reid last season is now infamous, has moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The bad news is his backups return. Leon Washington (#3, 5-9, 202, Jr.) and Lorenzo Booker (#28, 5-11, 192, So.), who along with Jones, combined for 173 yards rushing against the Tar Heels last year, are back to present a steep challenge for UNC's suspect run defense. Washington, the starter, ran 14 times for 76 yards and a touchdown last week against the Tigers, while Booker enjoyed a career-high outing with 87 yards rushing in his first game as a Seminole. Fullback B.J. Dean (#35, 5-11, 258, Jr.) has scored a touchdown in each of his last two games. Backup fullback James Coleman (#36, 6-0, 245, Jr.) has also crossed the goal line twice this year.
Paul Irons (#38, 6-4, 242, Sr.) has only one catch so far this year, but clearly his job is not to be a prolific receiver. He, along with Matt Henshaw (#14, 6-4, 231, Jr.), the son of Tennessee Titans' assistant George Henshaw, are primarily utilized as blockers.
Still looking for weaknesses or inexperience in the FSU offense? Keep looking. The offensive line returns five starters including All-America tackle candidates Alex Barron (#70, 6-6, 208, Sr.) and Ray Willis (#77, 6-6, 320, Sr.). Barron, a consensus All-America last season, is the top-rated tackle on Mel Kiper's 2005 draft board. Willis, the team's offensive captain, has started 27 games in his career. Pre-med center David Castillo (#63, 6-2, 304, Jr.) is a Rimington Award candidate. Right guard Cory Niblock (#62, 6-1, 301, So.) was named to The Sporting News 2003 All-ACC Freshman Team. Left guard Bobby Meeks (#73, 6-3, 299, Sr.), cousin of Denver Broncos' running back Quentin Griffin, is back in the starting lineup after suffering an ankle injury against Miami.
If there is an area of concern, it would be on the defensive front, where the Seminoles lost three of four starters from last season. However, there is plenty of game experience to draw on. Left end Chauncey Davis (#94, 6-2, 258, Sr.), who tallied three tackles and 1.5 sacks versus Clemson, has played in all 16 games over his career. Right end Eric Moore (#55, 6-4, 244, Sr.) led the team in sacks a year ago with 7.5. On the inside, tackle Travis Johnson (#99, 6-5, 290, Sr.) and nose guard Brodrick Bunkley (#52, 6-3, 291, Jr.) are trying to fill the voids left by 2003 NFL draftees' Darnell Dockett (Arizona Cardinals) and Jeff Womble (Minnesota Vikings).
Carolina fans certainly remember weakside linebacker A.J. Nicholson (#54, 6-2, 235, Jr.), who backed out of a verbal commitment to UNC to sign with FSU two years ago. Nicholson, son of UNC football alumnus Darrell Nicholson and older brother of 2005 UNC prospect Derek Nicholson, recorded four tackles and recovered a fumble last week. Strong side linebacker Ernie Sims (#34, 6-0, 220, So.) beat out teammate Ray Piquion (#56, 6-0, 212, Sr.) for the starting position two weeks ago. Middle linebacker Buster Davis (#7, 5-11, 248, So.) has also climbed up the depth chart in recent weeks, getting the starting nod over Sam McGrew (#44, 6-3, 226, Jr.), who has played in all 30 games of his college career.
Free safety Pat Watkins (#22, 6-4, 204, Jr.), who picked off his second pass of the season last week from one-time Heisman hopeful Charlie Whitehurst, has moved ahead of B.J. Ward (#24, 6-3, 208, Sr.) on the depth chart. Roverback Jerome Carter (#23, 6-0, 219, Sr.) is the team's defensive captain and an All-America candidate that ranked fourth on the team in tackles a year ago. At the cornerback positions are Bryant McFadden (#8, 6-0, 186, Sr.), another All-America candidate; and Leroy Smith (#32, 5-10, 190, Sr.), whose five career interceptions are a team-high.
With two field goals last week, place-kicker Xavier Beitia (#47, 5-10, 198, Sr.) moved up from No. 81 to No. 40 on the NCAA all-time scoring list. Since he had an extra-point attempt blocked last year at UNC, which snapped a streak of 80 consecutive PAT attempts, Beitia has connected on 57-straight. Chris Hall (#48, 5-10, 220, Jr.) punted six times versus Clemson for a 37.8 yard average and has dropped four inside the 20 so far this season. Washington, who returns kicks and punts along with Reid, set a school record with 159 return yards and a touchdown versus Wake Forest last season. He also had a 77-yard kickoff return that set up a touchdown in the Florida game.