Florida State Football at North Carolina State: Game Preview & Prediction

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Noles head north for the first time this season to take on the Wolfpack and a rowdy Carter-Finely Stadium

What They Did Last Week: North Carolina State

NC State traveled down to Miami and came away with a loss. NC State is much better than the game they played against Miami but could not get out of their own way. The Wolfpack committed six turnovers (three of which were fumbles) and were unable to stop through the air. Even after all that they were tied with Miami until Stephen Morris uncorked a 62 yard pass with under 20 seconds left to put Miami ahead for good.

What They Did Last Week: Florida State

The Seminoles traveled south to Tampa to take on the USF Bulls in front of a split crowd. While the win was not pretty FSU did enough to comfortably beat USF. A steady running game and a stifling defense (USF had one net yard on 12 plays in the third quarter) was more than enough to make up for mental mistakes such as a blocked punt.

V. North Carolina States's Defense

Florida State has been able to run the ball effectively against every opponent it has faced this year but that could change this week. The Wolfpack have been stout against the run giving up three yards/carry in the three BCS level games they have played. Unfortunately for them they are giving up 9.7 yards/pass in those games. There is really little the Wolfpack do well against the pass. They have five sacks in 122 attempts against BCS competition and have let receivers get behind them leading to 14 plays of 20 yards or more through the air in 122 attempts.

All of NC State's sacks have come on either second or third and long when defenders can pin their ears back so keeping ahead of the sticks is important. This will be a good test for FSU's mostly green tackles. So far they have performed better than anybody could have hoped but they did look a little shaky at times against USF. Additionally, Menelik Watson should be viewed as questionable with a torso issue. If he cannot go, look for Daniel Glauser to play right tackle. Carter-Finely Stadium is a loud place to play. FSU's line will have it's communication tested Saturday night. As always FSU needs to stay away from turnovers and staying ahead of the sticks reduces the chances for turnovers.

Look for FSU to throw the ball early targeting the linebackers and safeties. NC State is likely to blitz FSU often to try and force poor passes and sacks from E.J. Manuel. While E.J. is not likely to throw many poor passes (one interception on the year) he can sometimes hold the ball too long. E.J. needs to deliver the ball on a timely manner to keep NC State on their heels. If E.J. can get the offense into the right play at the line they will have multiple opportunities for big plays. He needs to play at a high level.

Florida State will likely stay away from play action and QB runs because of the blitzing. However, FSU will likely throw a bunch of screens to slow down the blitzing linebackers.

Goals:

- more than 6.5 yards a play before garbage time
- No more than 1 turnover
- 60% or greater TDs in the red zome

V. North Carolina States's Offense

Mike Glennon is a good quarterback and Quintin Payton and Tobias Palmer are decent wide receivers but the line is likely to cause some problems for the Pack. Against Miami, NC State played three backups on the offensive line (two tackles and a guard) and the offensive was able to move the ball effectively. Unfortunately for NC State, Miami has one of the worst defenses in college football while FSU has one of the best.

FSU has not had a ton of sacks in the last two games (two against both Clemson and USF) but should have ample opportunity to inflate that number against NC State. Glennon is not a mobile quarterback so he is easier to take down compared to Tajh Boyd and BJ Daniels and the defensive ends do not have to worry about keeping contain.

Do not expect relief to come via the run for NC State. While the Wolfpack's 3.3 yards/carry against BCS is not great it gets even worse considering they ran for 4.9 yards/carry against Miami. NC State will have to run the ball to keep FSU off balance, just do not expect them to succeed. FSU should have very little problem corralling of the Wolfpack running backs.

Much like every game this year FSU except Clemson, will not respect NC State's wide receivers. They will likely bump the receivers at the line and play physical. The goal here is to disrupt the timing of N.C. State's routes. FSU can afford to do this because both Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks know their assignments and have excellent range. Much like USF, NC State will need big plays on offense to win and those are most likely to come in the passing game. Brooks and Joyner are tasked with stopping that.

Expect FSU to start the game playing man in a 4-3 or nickel package with a cover-2 behind. Many teams do not play much man defense largely because of personnel, and the secondary cannot help when the quarterback run. However, since Glennon is very immobile FSU should not have to worry about him and can further challenge the NC State receivers.

FSU will also blitz if necessary, mostly up the middle, forcing Glennon to get rid of the ball quickly and accurately while on the run. While blitzes can allow for big plays by the offense, FSU has the secondary to neutralize that possibility. NC State will try and run the screen game if the blitzes are successful but FSU has been very good against the screen this year.

NC State has had trouble hanging onto the ball. In five games they have fumbled 14 times losing seven of them. Recovering 50% of fumbles is about average so NC State is not unlucky here. However, that type of turnover rate is a big reason why they lost to Miami (five fumbles; four lost). Florida State should look to strip the ball as long as they are sound in tackling. The first man wraps up while the second goes for the ball.

Goals:

- less than 5 yards a play before garbage time
- Force 2 turnovers
- 50% or less TDs in the red zome

Special Teams

NC State's Niklas Sade is a decent kicker hitting four of his seven attempts and missing only one of the 20 extra point attempts. Sade can get the ball into the endzone but opponents are returning almost half of his kicks. FSU returners have shown a willingness to return a ball even if its five yards deep in the end zone so do not expect too many touchbacks in this game.

Hopkins did miss a 48 yard field goal against USF but hit his other three (long of 43). Hopkins needs to continue to dial in the range on his field goals and keep up the same quality of kick offs. FSU will continue to make a mockery of the new kick off rule this week because there are just not many teams that can block FSU's special teamers.

Wil Baumann has good leg averaging 40.2 yards/punt but has not dropped too many inside the 20 (6 of 24 kicks). Returners are not getting much of a chance against NC State as they have only returned four of those kicks. Expect that to continue against Florida State.

Rashad Green needs to make sure he holds onto the ball. He did well against USF but will likely see many shorter high kicks this year. FSU has done too good of a job in kick returns and has used them to help turn a game around (Clemson). Teams cannot do much to disallow FSU from returning kicks but can on punts. Green needs to make sure the ball does not roll if NC State decides to short the punt too much.

Cason Beatty did things Cason Beatty does. He has a decent average on his kicks and does an above average job of pinning teams inside the 20. Unfortunately he did have a kick blocked. Of course this was not Beatty's fault but the Noles need to be sharper on special teams.

Prediction: FSU 34 - NC State 16

Miscellaeous

With Virginia Tech's loss to Cincinnatti this last weekend Florida State is likely to face only one more ranked team the rest of the year. Unfortunately for many FSU fans that means rooting for UF to beat LSU and Miami to beat Notre Dame this week. If Miami beats ND there is a likely chance the ACC could get two teams in BCS bowls (FSU and Clemson) and with the ACC's silly revenue split for bowl teams FSU would rake in more money. ND will likely lose at least one more time again so it is not imperative that Miami wins but it would help FSU's strength of schedule the more Miami wins.

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