Florida State v. Wake Forest: Preview and prediction

Mike Ehrmann

Florida State takes on a 4-5 Wake Forest squad missing arguably its best player Saturday at Noon. Again, not all areas of the country will receive the game. Make sure to have a look at the coverage map to see if ABC is showing the game in your area.

v. Wake Forest's defense

Wake's defense is a lot better than its offense. Florida State's offense is ranked second, Wake's defense is 42nd.

In comparison, Clemson's defense is ranked 14th, Miami's 49th, Pitt's 37th, Boston College's 76th, Maryland's 77th, N.C. State's 66th and Nevada and Bethune Cookman are not worth ranking.

This is a veteran defense that does not make a lot of mistakes or allow a lot of big plays.

Once more the Deacon's defense is keyed by the undersized Nikita Whitlock. At 250 lbs, many would not think Whitlock would make a very good NT, but his great jump off the snap and talent to get into many centers and guards makes Whitlock one of the ACC's more dangerous NTs. Wake uses Whitlock to turn the center creating a gap for a rushing linebacker to fill and either stop the run or get to the QB. Whitlock's skill is evident in his 7 sacks, 7 hurries and 14 tackles for loss. Forcing teams to stay honest on Whitlock is DE Zach Thompson who is second on the team behind Whitlock in sacks and tackles for loss.

FSU should expect Whitlock to have some tackles for loss in this game. It should also probably pop a few big runs when he is driven off the ball. It's the tradeoff against this unique player.

The linebackers in this 3-4 greatly benefit from the play of Whitlock and Thompson, racking up big tackle totals. ILBs Brandon Chubb and Mike Olson man the middle of this group. The linebacking core is solid in coverage and in run support but does not get much of a pass rush. The Deacons do have some talent in the defensive backfield with players like Merril Noel and Kevin Johnson collecting 3 picks a piece this year.

The Demon Deacon defense has really held it's own this year. They've done a good job of playing strong even when the offense has not been able to do it's job (against Syracuse the offense only gained 12 first downs and gained less than 200 yards, yet the defense only gave up 13 points).  They've also held every team but Clemson to under 30 points this year which isn't bad all things considered however they don't belong on the same field as FSU.DE Kris Redding was right when he said

Good luck with that. Better teams have tried to pressure Winston and this offense has had none of it. Wake will likely drop 7 to 8 to try and slow the FSU offense because there's just no way they'll be able to stop it.

Goals

  • More than 8.0 yards a play before garbage time (400 yards on 50 plays, 480 yards on 60 plays, 560 yards on 70 plays)
  • No more than 1 turnover
  • 75% or greater TDs in the red zone

v. Wake Forest's offense

Wake began it's season by trying to focus on the run and hoping QB Tanner Price could beat teams with his arm while forcing them to at least respect his legs. That did not work. At all.

Wake had to change things up as they could not get the ball with the option. They increased their line splits, relied more on short quick passes and moved Price around to help protect a line starting 3 sophomores. Two wins and a close loss to a top-10 Miami team had fans feeling better about their offense but then life smacked them upside their collective heads. Against Syracuse Wake lost arguably their best player when Michael Campanaro went down with a broken collar bone. The offense immediately tanked.

This is the worst FBS offense FSU has faced this year, perhaps by a good margin.

Without Campanaro, Wake just doesn't have enough talent to be a threat. Price is not a bad QB by any means but he needs help and he's not getting it from a team that's averaging less than 3 yards per rush and can't stretch the field with the pass. Tyree Harris and Sherman Ragland III are the two WRs most likely to step up in Campanaro's place, but there's little likelihood that'll happen this weekend. To whit: Campanaro has 67 pass catches up to this point with the next closest WR having 15.

When they do try to run the ball the Deacon's hand the ball to Josh Harris, and since retooling their offense Harris has seen his stats increase. Part of the reason is the wider line splits helping offensive linemen figure out who is attacking what gap. Harris is only seeing around 10 runs/game though due to Wake focusing mostly on the passing game.

Harris is certainly a talented back, and if FSU is undisciplined he can break a long run.

Wake is in a tough spot here. Expect the Demon Deacons to break out some of the option from earlier in the year, and some trick plays as well.

Goals

  • Less than 3.5 yards/play allowed before garbage time (175 yards on 50 plays, 210 yards on 60 plays, 245 yards on 70 plays).
  • Force 2 turnovers
  • Less than 50% touchdowns allowed in the red zone.

Special Teams

Blogger So Dear is really excited about punter Alexander KinalIn the words of Bart Johnston

..Kinal is still set to just obliterate every career punting record there is - total punts for a Wake player, ACC player, and NCAA player; most punting yards ever for a Wake player, ACC player, and NCAA player

That's not a good thing. Kinal has punted 64 times through 9 games. Cason Beatty has 21 in that same span meaning that Kinal has more punts in 2 games (22 against Clemson and Syracuse) than Beatty has in his career.

Prediction

The loss of Campanaro is huge for Wake Forest. As tough as it is to envision Wake moving the ball at all against FSU it's now even more tough without Campanaro. While I don't generally predict shut outs in games due to the volatility of college football and the drop in on field production when the second team enters the game I thought long and hard about doing that here. I couldn't do it but I put a 0 in Wake's score either way.

Florida State 56, Wake Forest 10

Bud's prediction: Florida State 45, Wake Forest 7, with the starters pulled in plenty of time.

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