Ok, here we go. Wake Forest has lost 4 straight ballgames. FSU just got worked by Clemson. Wake Forest just had to play Georgia Tech, and teams often struggle on defense after playing Tech, probably because of the cut blocks. Florida State just lost Christian Ponder. In his place will be Red-shirt Freshman E.J. Manuel. Both teams must have this ballgame if they want to make a bowl. Wake is staging a blackout for this game. This game is at noon. Yes, a noon blackout. You can't really make this stuff up. It's also senior day for Wake. If FSU loses this game, they will not go to a bowl, unless they pull an Appalachian-State level miracle.
Time: Noon, Eastern
Line: Wake Forest -6
Weather: 55 degrees, light rain
Florida State Offense @ Wake Forest Defense
This is a truly interesting matchup. FSU has a very good offensive line and similarly talented wideouts. They have a good runner in Jermaine Thomas. And they had the best QB in the country in Christian Ponder. But now that QB is done. Their prized left tackle is banged up but will play, and WR Richard Goodman is still somewhat of a question mark.
Before we discuss FSU's offense any more, let's learn a bit about Wake's defense:
They're currently rated #35 in the country. So we're looking at a unit that it is decidedly worse than Miami, UNC, Clemson, and BC (side note here, how amazing is it that FSU's offense did what they did against the # 1, 3, 5, and 16 rated defenses?) But Wake's defense is definitely better than GTech, NC State, and BYU. Oh and its better than USF, who now looks just to have had one of their best games ever against FSU.
Here's Wake's Roster:
DE 55 Tristan Dorty 6-2 250 R-So.
NG 96 Boo Robinson 6-2 295 R-Sr.
DT 51 John Russell 6-4 280 R-Sr.
99 Michael Lockett 6-0 285 R-Sr.
DE 97 Kyle Wilber 6-5 230 R-So.
57 Gelo Orange 6-1 225 R-So.
SLB 26 Jonathan Jones 6-3 240 R-Sr.
MLB 52 Dominique Midgett 6-2 245 R-Sr.
WLB 46 Matt Woodlief 5-11 255 R-Jr.
CB 17 Brandon Ghee 6-0 190 R-Sr.
FS 4 Josh Bush 5-11 195 R-So.
SS 5 Cyhl Quarles 6-3 205 R-So.
CB 6 Kenny Okoro 6-0 190 R-Fr.
You might notice that one of their defensive ends weighs only 230lbs. That's tiny, and as I watched Wake on the games I found, they play their weakside defensive end in a stand-up position. Wake is essentially running a 3-4 defense more often than ever before. It will be very important for FSU to accurately declare the Mike linebacker for protection purposes.
As for this defense, the two defensive tackles are very good. Corner Brandon Ghee is also pretty good. Martin Rickman of BloggerSoDear.com, pointed out that Okoro is also good at the other corner spot, even for a redshirt freshman. Orange is a very quick linebacker off the edge and sometimes puts his hand down as well.
As I said, they are running a multiple-front defense this year and have run a decent bit of zone. I expect them to run all zone against E.J. Manuel. Why?
First, Manuel has good wheels. By running a zone, it will allow Wake to keep 11 eyes on Manuel should he elect to run. Additionally, running a zone means Wake doesn't need to devote a spy to Manuel. Additionally, they probably cannot stick with FSU's wideouts in man coverage, and Manuel has a cannon and can beat them deep if they go solo. Finally, they are going to make Maneul read zone coverage and deliver the ball accurately into the holes of the zone. That's where Manuel could have trouble. FSU doesn't run anything resembling a quality zone and I guarantee you the scout team doesn't run one well either. Wake knows this, and they are betting (correctly) that E.J. doesn't have the rapport with his wideouts that Ponder had. That's expected, as Ponder worked with these guys all the time.
Running the ball here will be huge. I expect FSU to run the ball from the gun and have some success. Remember I said Wake's defensive tackles are excellent. So FSU must try to get a draw there and win on the edge. FSU should be able to consistently block Wake's defensive ends and outside linebackers. Now, with Datko being hurt, that could be easier said than done, but if he's ineffective, I'd expect coach Trickett to insert someone else. The other reason FSU needs to stick with the run, outside of protecting their young quarterback, is to protect their awful defense. We saw Fisher do this last year when the offense really couldn't throw very well and instead they ate clock like crazy (remember NC State last year?).
I expect the offense to have some success, but Wake does play good but not great defense. We'll use the typical 67 play pace (about the average of how many plays a team gets). I'll go with 37 running plays for 167 yards (4.5 per carry), and 30 passing plays (including sacks) for 218 yards. That's 385 yards on 67 plays, or 5.7 yards per play. You might think that isn't very good, but consider that it is actually better than what Miami, Navy, Maryland, NC State, or BC managed. I think that adds up to 28 points, but points are a lot harder to predict than offensive performance, which is measured by yards per play. Inside, we'll look at the other side of the ball and give a final prediction.
Florida State's Defense @ Wake Forest's Offense
How good is Wake's offense? Let's go to the chart:
Ok, so their offense is 26th in the country, and they have been improving. They aren't as good as GTech, Miami, NC State, or BYU, but they are definitely better than BC, UNC, or USF. And FSU is facing them on the road.
Here's a chart I put together, compare what Wake did against similar opponents of FSU's schedule:
You might need to click it to enlarge. For reference, Clemson went for 4.9 per play against Miami, and Wake put up 6.5 per play. That's a huge difference when you extrapolate it over a whole game.
And schematically, Wake matches up tremendously with FSU. Their offense is made to take advantage of over-aggressive undisciplined defenses. In fact, this year they seem to be running a lot of spread-option type stuff. That will frustrate FSU. Additionally, they throw a ton of underneath routes and pick routes and dump-offs to the backs. Their O-Line is average, and their running game isn't tremendous. But senior QB Riley Skinner is pretty good and he knows how to beat this FSU defense. This is just a really poor match-up for FSU's defense. So I expect Wake to get about 65 plays. Of those, they'll have about 30 runs for 190 yards (6.3 per run) and 35 passes for 315 yards (including sacks, that's 9 yards per pass play). That's 505 yards of offense for Wake Forest on only 65 plays, which is 7.8 yards per play. Always tough to tell, but that comes out to 42 points in my book.
Final Prediction: Wake Forest 42, FSU 28. Chance of winning: 30%