Struggling Florida State aims for first road win in Raleigh
The struggling Florida State Seminoles will make the trip this weekend to a venue that hasn't been all that kind to them over the years — Carter-Finley Stadium. FSU aims to get back on track following consecutive blowout losses on the road against the NC State Wolfpack.
FSU (2-5, 1-5 ACC) is just 5-6 in its last 11 trips to Raleigh and the odds seemed stacked against the Seminoles in this one. Since upsetting No. 5 North Carolina, FSU has been defeated by Louisville and Pittsburgh by a combined 56 points.
NC State (4-3) is coming off a heartbreaking loss to No. 11 Miami last week, dropping a 44-41 thriller. The Seminoles handled NC State last season in Tallahassee 31-13 but was on the other side of a 47-28 loss two years ago in Raleigh. First-year head coach Mike Norvell is still looking for his first road win at FSU.
Florida State at NC State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: NC State -9.5
When Florida State Has the Ball
Florida State has certainly seen a spark on offense since inserting Jordan Travis into the lineup at quarterback, but after being pulled at halftime due to injury last week, his status is very much in the air for Saturday. If Travis is unable to go, true freshman Chubba Purdy would likely make his first career start. Purdy has appeared in each of the last two games, but the FSU offense has struggled mightily.
Finding offense on Saturday may be a tall task. Leading wide receiver Tamorrion Terry has left the program and it was learned earlier this week that tackle Devontay Love-Taylor would miss the remainder of the season. Camren McDonald has been a reliable target at tight end, but for FSU to have a chance, the offensive line will need to open holes for the likes of La'Damian Webb, Lawrance Toafili, and Jashaun Corbin.
The good news for FSU is that it will be facing an NC State defense that simply isn't very good. The Wolfpack rank dead last in the ACC in total defense and are yielding nearly 36 points per game. Only Georgia Tech and FSU allow more. Linebacker Payton Wilson is without a doubt the name to know on NC State's defense. Wilson enters Saturday leading the team with 65 tackles — good for third in the ACC. Wilson also has 1.5 sacks and two interceptions.
If there is one thing that NC State does well, it's getting after the quarterback, which could spell bad news for FSU. The Wolfpack have 21 sacks this season with Daniel Joseph leading the way with four. One area where NC State has struggled is turning its opponents over. Among ACC teams, only Louisville has forced fewer turnovers than the Wolfpack. Defensive tackle Alim McNeill does have an interception return for a touchdown.
When NC State Has the Ball
Florida State has already faced a pair of former commitments at quarterback this season in Georgia Tech's Jeff Sims and North Carolina's Sam Howell. On Saturday night, FSU will see a quarterback that once donned the garnet and gold in lefty Bailey Hockman. Hockman was forced into action following an injury to Devin Leary but did play well last time out against Miami. Hockman has been largely inconsistent since taking over and struggled last season against the Seminoles.
The NC State offense has been in the middle of the pack in the ACC statistically but has very good skill players. Zonovan "Bam" Knight and Ricky Person Jr. make for a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield. Knight rushed for a touchdown and returned a kickoff for a score last week. Out wide, Emeka Emezie is one of the best in the ACC. He leads the Wolfpack with 27 catches for 465 yards receiving this season. Senior tight end Cary Angeline, a big (6-7) target, has been a touchdown machine this season. He has six touchdown grabs — tied for the ACC lead — on just 16 catches.
Florida State's defense has been one of the worst in the ACC this season and isn't showing signs of improvement. Although he didn't live up to his All-American hype, defensive tackle Marvin Wilson was an intricate part of the defense and is now out for the year with a leg injury. The Seminoles have consistently failed to generate pressure. Their nine sacks are the fewest in the ACC this season.
One bright spot for FSU has been the play of cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., who leads the team with three interceptions. Last season's leading tackler, Hamsah Nasirildeen, has still yet to appear in a game. Linebacker Amari Gainer leads the team in tackles with 48. Gainer had a monster game last season against NC State with nine tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
With so many players out with injuries or recently leaving the program, Florida State appears to be in even bigger trouble than usual this week. The Seminoles have been abysmal defensively and NC State seems to be coming into its own offensively with former Nole Bailey Hockman now at quarterback. It's also uncertain whether Jordan Travis will be available for FSU at quarterback this week. Although the crowd won't be as hostile as usual, Florida State is 0-3 on the road, losing by an average of 30 points per contest.
Prediction: NC State 38, Florida State 19
Podcast: Week 11 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.
(Jashaun Corbin photo courtesy of seminoles.com)