Florida State is 24-11 all-time against N.C. State, 18-7 since joining the ACC and 3-2 against the Wolfpack under Jimbo Fisher. A year after drilling the Wolfpack, Florida State got quite the scare in Raleigh in 2014, as transfer QB Jacoby Brissett had the game of his life, jumping out to a 24-7 lead with crazy plays like these:
N.C. State built the 24-7 lead in the first quarter, running 23 plays for 209 yards (9.1/play!), compared to FSU's 11 plays for 50 yards (4.6/play).
But FSU could outscore NC State 49-17 the rest of the way for a 56-41 win, running 59 plays for 488 yards (8.3/play), while holding N.C. State to 66 plays for 303 yards (4.6/play). After the first quarter, the only time N.C. State scored was when it got the ball off a turnover (3 turnovers, 17 points). For the game, N.C. State scored 20 points off of turnovers.
This year, N.C. State comes to Tallahassee on November 14, the week after FSU plays Clemson -- what might be the de facto ACC Atlantic Division title game.
Bill Connelly's preview of the Pack is out, so what can we learn about N.C. State this off-season? Read the whole thing, but here are two takeaways.
The run game should again be quite good.
The addition of Brissett apparently changed everything. Brissett is a load in the open field, and he carried just enough (about 7.4 times per game, not including sacks) to give defenses too many threats to mind. It helped to turn Shadrach Thornton into one of the country's most efficient backs (48 percent of his carries gained at least five yards), and it gave speedy Matt Dayes more chances in the open field. And utilizing a unique weapon in fullback/H-Back/tight end Jaylen Samuels a couple of times per game further frayed defenses.
With Brissett, Thornton, Dayes, and Samuels back, not to mention four linemen with starting experience (72 career starts), it does appear the running game is loaded again. If the passing game can survive the loss of its top two targets and still steal free yards from defenses gearing up to stop the run, this should be another prolific year.
The run defense might be even worse.
Last year, FSU had seven explosive runs (12+ yards) against the Wolfpack defense. This year, it might rely even more heavily on the run game because ...
The Wolfpack had a solid pass rush and stuffed a few runs in the backfield, but they had one of the worst short-yardage units in the country, and if runners got past the line (which was a bit too easy to do), they ran a long way. The Pack ranked a healthy 28th in allowing only 96 passes of 10-plus yards but ranked 95th in allowing 78 such runs.
It's looking like a "strength gets stronger, weakness gets weaker" situation. Seven of the top eight tacklers from a disruptive secondary return, as does middle linebacker Jerod Fernandez, who played passing lanes well. After ranking 48th in Passing S&P+ last year, it's conceivable that State could rise into the top 40 in 2015.
Meanwhile, the run defense might get worse. The Pack ranked 91st in Rushing S&P+ and must now replace their top two defensive tackles, two of their top three ends, and run-stuffing linebacker Rodman Noel, who led the team with 11 non-sack tackles for loss.
FSU's offensive line is the least experienced in the Power 5, but it is huge and still has Dalvin Cook, Mario Pender and Jacques Patrick running behind it. FSU will need to lean on the run game because the N.C. State secondary looks legit.
N.C. State would seem like one of the seven games that could potentially trip up FSU (the others being at BC, at Clemson, at UF, at Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami), but a win seems considerably more likely than a loss as of this writing.