After nearly 3 weeks, the Florida State Seminoles will be back on the football field, thanks to Hurricane Irma canceling one matchup and postponing another. The Seminoles have not played since September 2nd when they lost to #1 ranked Alabama. It feels like an eternity since we have seen the 12th ranked Seminoles play, but the wait is almost over.
The Seminoles open their home schedule and also their conference schedule against the North Carolina State Wolfpack. The game will kick off this Saturday at 12 pm at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Under head coach Jimbo Fisher, the Seminoles are 5-2 against the Wolfpack, with losses coming in 2010 and 2012. This will be the 38th time these two teams battle it out, with FSU holding the edge 26-11. The last time that NC State came into Tallahassee and left with a victory was in 2005.
As mentioned earlier, the Seminoles have only played one game this season, due to Hurricane Irma. The Wolfpack, however, have played every week thus far and come into Tallahassee with a 2-1 record. This matchup will be NC State’s first conference game as well. NC State comes in fresh off back to back victories over Furman last week, and Marshall the week before, winning by a combined 50 points. However, they did lose opening weekend to border rival South Carolina by one touchdown.
Let’s take a look at a few storylines for this matchup entering week four of the college football season:
1. How will the Seminoles start?
Come Saturday, it will have been 21 days since the Seminoles last played in a football game. Many argue that the layoff will hurt the Seminoles and that could result in a very slow start, but there are others who believe that the long layoff will allow the Seminoles to be a well-rested team and will be ready to battle from the opening whistle. This is something to watch in the first few drives for the Seminoles. If they come out sluggish, this could be a problem against the Wolfpack who will look to exploit the rust and make this a long day for the Seminoles and their fans. However, if they come out fresh and ready to hit someone, it could be a very entertaining game to watch for the fans that came out in the sweltering Florida heat that is typical at noon kickoffs.
2. How will Blackman do?
Before the hurricane delayed everything for the Seminoles, the main storyline was the quarterback situation. Freshman James Blackman was named the starter in the wake of fellow quarterback Deondre Francois’ season-ending knee injury. Blackman will be making his first career start against the Wolfpack. Expect the freshman to make some mistakes early on, like missing wide open players or not getting rid of the ball quick enough. However, this layoff could have potentially helped the young freshman gain a chemistry with his receivers and offensive line and could allow for some production. But that remains to be seen and will be something that needs to be focused on. The Seminoles, now more than ever, need their receivers and other playmakers to step up and help the young quarterback get going in this game as NC State does boast a solid defense and will not take pity on a young quarterback making his first career start. The defense will get after him, and it will be interesting to see how Blackman fares against constant pressure.
3. FSU Offensive line vs. NC State Defensive line
As mentioned in the game preview against Alabama 3 weeks ago, a matchup to watch will be between the Seminoles offensive line and the Wolfpack defensive line. The Wolfpack know that there is a freshman quarterback making his first career start, and they are ready to pounce. The Wolfpack have only produced six sacks, but should raise that total if they bring pressure to confuse the young quarterback. The Seminoles offensive line has been criticized often in the past for their poor play, but against Alabama, they held their own. They did allow 3 sacks, and one that ended Francois’s season, but overall, the linemen did a solid job preventing Alabama’s fearsome front seven from getting to the backfield and sacking the quarterback. If they play well against the Wolfpack, look for them to get into a groove throughout the season and maybe this line could become a strength, barring injury.
4. Special Teams
There is no way that we can discuss this matchup without mentioning the special teams. The special teams played pitiful 3 weeks ago in Atlanta against the Crimson Tide. The unit allowed a blocked punt to occur, a blocked field goal and fumbled a kickoff return, which all led to short fields for Alabama, which in turn led to points for the Tide, putting the game out of reach for the Seminoles. If Florida State has the same production from the special teams this Saturday, don’t expect the special teams coordinator to leave Doak Campbell Stadium with a job.
The Seminoles should come out on fire and ready to go. The team seems anxious to get that nasty taste out of their mouth from 3 weeks ago and look to get back on track against a conference opponent. The fans have been patiently waiting for Seminoles football to come back on Saturdays. Expect a large crowd, though it is an early afternoon kickoff, and expect the Seminoles to come out on top.
SCORE: Florida State 24. NC State 20