The Seminoles have been one of college football’s biggest disappointments of the 2016 season, sitting at just 5-3 and 2-3 in ACC play after ascending to No. 2 in the country earlier this season. FSU is coming off a heartbreaking 37-34 home loss to highly-ranked Clemson, but would lock up a 34th straight bowl appearance with a win on Saturday.
NC State has had an up-and-down campaign in 2016. After letting one slip away at Clemson last month, the Wolfpack just allowed Boston College to come into Carter-Finley Stadium and pick up its first ACC win in more than a year. Dave Doeren’s team will look to snap a three-game skid against its third ranked opponent in four games. The Seminoles however, are just 4-5 in their last nine trips to Raleigh and only 1-2 under head coach Jimbo Fisher.
Florida State at NC State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Florida State -5.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Ryan Finley
After losing to perhaps the ACC’s three best quarterbacks in Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson of Clemson, the Florida State defense may be happy to see a struggling Finley. Just a sophomore, Finley got off to a strong start, completing 72 percent of his passes for 1,014 yards with 10 total touchdowns and no interceptions during the first month of the season. Over his last four games, Finley has completed just 52 percent of his passes for 801 yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions.
The Wolfpack as a team also have seen their scoring average dip from 40 points in the first four games to just 13.5 per game over the last four. Outscoring the Seminoles in a shootout has been a key for success this season. When FSU holds its opponent to 35 points or fewer, it’s 5-0. When they do not, the Seminoles are 0-3.
2. Dalvin Cook
After 169 rushing yards against Clemson and a career-high four touchdowns, Cook hopes to run for the FSU record on Saturday night in Raleigh. The junior ranks fifth in the country with 1,069 yards on the ground and is 192 yards away from eclipsing Warrick Dunn’s career rushing record at the school.
In two career games against the Wolfpack, Cook is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and three touchdowns on just 28 attempts, but NC State has been stout against the run this season. The Wolfpack rank 13th nationally, yielding just 3.2 yards per rush. That’s largely thanks to a very good defensive front, a solid trio of linebackers in Airius Moore, Jerod Fernandez and Dravious Wright, and a ball-hawking safety in Josh Jones. If NC State can’t find a way to stop Cook, it will be in for a long night.
3. FSU’s Offensive Line vs. NC State’s Defensive Line
The biggest area of concern for Florida State at this point in time is the offensive line. With freshman guard Landon Dickerson out with a knee injury, the Seminoles will likely have their fifth different starting combination up front on Saturday. FSU’s struggles on the offensive line came to a head last week at Clemson as consecutive false starts took the Seminoles out of field goal range late and then two sacks concluded the game.
This week, Florida State will be facing a very good defensive front headlined by junior defensive end Bradley Chubb, who leads the Wolfpack with six sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss. Fellow ends Kentavius Street and Darian Roseboro have combined for 9.5 sacks while B.J. Hill is a stout, but deceptively athletic body in the middle of the defensive front. For NC State to have a chance in this one, this is a matchup it has to win.
NC State has the bodies to give Florida State some problems, particularly up front. Matt Dayes is a running back that can shorten the game for NC State and Ryan Finley will be facing a secondary that has struggled at times this season. The Wolfpack also will benefit from a primetime home crowd. In the end however, Florida State has much more talent. The weakest link of the NC State defense is the secondary and quarterback Deondre Francois is very capable for a redshirt freshman. Dalvin Cook likely won’t break the FSU career rushing record this week, but he’ll have a solid game and slowly wear NC State down.