Alright, let’s try something a little new. We’re drawing on our vast SB Nation network for this preview of Florida State’s road challenge vs. Wake Forest on Saturday, a game featuring the 3-3 (2-2) Seminoles and the 5-1 (1-1) Demon Deacons, courtesy of some cool graphics assembled by Zane Murfitt from our sister site covering Washington State, CougCenter. And yes, Zane uses the old FSU logo, which I’m guessing will completely dominate the comments section.
The ’Noles and Deacs aren’t terribly dissimilar squads, which is probably why the minuscule point spread just about has this game as a coin flip. The SP+ ranks for each team look like this:
- Overall: FSU 58th, WF 49th
- Offense: FSU 28th, WF 26th
- Defense: FSU 84th, WF 78th
- Special teams: FSU 93rd, WF 41st
Both of these teams like to go really fast, excepting Wake Forest’s seemingly never-ending mesh point. So let’s start there, with the Demon Deacons’ offense vs. the Florida State defense (hover over rankings to get the exact data).
Wake Forest’s top-20 pass success rate and yards per attempt are obviously big concerns for the Seminoles, since they could allow the Deacs to stay on the field and keep the ball away from Kendal Briles’ offense. We’ll see if these take a hit with backup QB Sam Hartman perhaps getting the start over the injured Jamie Newman.
Regardless, receiver Sage Surratt will be a major point of emphasis for FSU’s pass defense, as he’s averaging 118.5 YPG, third in the FBS. Scotty Washington is no slouch either, accounting for 83 YPG, 30th in the country. So while proper positioning would be a nice start for the ’Nole LBs, it’s not enough for the Florida State DBs: they have to make plays on the ball. This matchup really can’t be overstated, as FSU’s defensive pass-success rate is 108th in the land.
And remaining on the field has really been a strength of the Wake Forest offense, which is 6th, nationally, in third-down conversion percentage. Only Ohio State and UCF average more first downs per game than Wake’s 27.3. So what we’ve been saying all season is even more important in this game: whether it’s via a stop, turnover, or allowing a score, FSU has to get off the field. That would likely involve improving on its havoc rate, which is ranked No. 102 among 130 FBS programs.
But let’s turn to the Florida State offense against the WF defense.
The Deacs suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday by coming up short in a 62-59 home shootout with Louisville. Wake Forest’s defensive ranking against explosive plays is 93rd in the country, so FSU’s top-40 explosiveness ranking should mean some big plays for the Seminoles.
Given Wake’s low ranks in most defensive categories, its top-10 third-down defense may seem surprising, but it’s directly tied to the Demon Deacons’ top-10 stuff rate and its No. 14 rushing success rate, both weaknesses for the ’Noles and their subpar OL.
In a game that Vegas projects will produce about 70 points, this one could come down to Florida State’s top-20 redzone-TD percentage. Field goals may well be victories for either defense, so punching it into the end zone is of critical importance, especially for FSU, which has been flipping a coin when trying to split the uprights, making just 4-8 tries. Meanwhile, in seven attempts, the Deacs have yet to miss. But while their field-goal and punting teams are both on-point as top-20 national units, Wake Forest does miss plenty in special teams coverage, as both its kick and punt-coverage teams are ranked 123rd in the FBS.
Speaking of missing things, let’s talk about officiating. You know that FSU is flagged plenty, averaging 73 penalty yards per game (115th, nationally). Wake Forest, on the other hand, is set back less than half as much, at 32.8 YPG (fourth in the country). That’s obviously because they play much smarter, cleaner football, and are as disciplined as I am trying to keep a straight face while typing that.
Hey, if y’all didn’t notice, you can have a little fun with these graphics, changing up the teams to create your own matchups. So how about some feedback— what do you think of this new preview format?