Editor's note: Late Friday morning, the ACC announced that Saturday's game between Florida State and Wake Forest has been canceled due to the Seminoles' COVID-19 issues.
On the same day that the ACC Championship Game takes place, the conference's regular season will wrap up. It isn't the match-up that anyone is circling on their calendars for this weekend, but the Florida State Seminoles and Wake Forest Demon Deacons will look to close the year on a high note.
The teams will meet on Saturday in Winston-Salem. Last season, the Demon Deacons won a 22-20 nail-biter to snap a seven-game losing streak to the Seminoles. At 4-4, Wake Forest will need a victory to have a winning regular season after making four straight bowl games. FSU comes in with a 3-6 record and is assured its third straight losing campaign.
The Seminoles did have a nice week against Duke, winning 56-35 to snap a three-game skid. However, Florida State is still looking for its first road win of the season. Wake Forest, meanwhile, is coming off a 45-21 loss to Louisville on the road. and has lost consecutive games after a 4-2 start.
Florida State at Wake Forest
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 19 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Wake Forest -7
When Florida State Has the Ball
It was against a dismal Duke defense, but Florida State is coming off its best offensive performance of the season. With quarterback Jordan Travis back in the lineup, FSU put up 56 points — its most in ACC play since 2014 — and 522 yards. FSU averaged 7.5 yards per carry and had four different players rush for at least 50 yards. Freshman Lawrance Toafili led the way with 117 rushing yards and a touchdown on just seven carries. It's undeniable that FSU is a better team with Travis in the lineup. He had missed the previous six quarters for FSU.
Over those six quarters, FSU tallied just 22 points, and 13 of those came in the fourth quarter against NC State with the contest already well decided. Travis set the FSU single-season record for rushing yards for a quarterback last week and is most dangerous with his legs but continues to mature as a passer. He threw multiple touchdown passes last week for the first time in his career. Ontaria Wilson and tight end Camren McDonald are FSU's top two receivers, but freshman Ja'Khi Douglas is coming off a breakout game with three catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns.
This season, Wake Forest has gone the way of its defense. In wins this season, the Demon Deacons yield just over 19 points per game. In losses, that number climbs to 44.5 points per contest. As a whole, Wake Forest ranks just 13th in the ACC in total defense and 10th in scoring defense. Senior defensive lineman Carlos Basham Jr. is the name to know for the Demon Deacons. He leads the team with five sacks, but fellow senior Miles Fox has had a breakout season with 3.5 sacks and a team-leading 10 tackles for a loss.
Wake Forest hasn't been particularly stout against the pass or the run this season, but it does lead the ACC in turnover margin at plus-13. The Demon Deacons are among just three ACC teams that has forced at least two turnovers per game. Linebacker Ja'Cquez Williams leads the team with 62 tackles. Safety Nick Andersen, a former walk-on, is second on the team with 55 tackles. His three interceptions lead the squad. All three came in a win over Virginia Tech earlier this season.
When Wake Forest Has the Ball
Wake Forest looked to have been dealt a significant blow after last season when quarterback Jamie Newman transferred to Georgia. This season, however, the Demon Deacons are actually averaging about five points more per contest and rank in the top 20 nationally in scoring at 37.0 points per game. Wake Forest has gotten solid quarterback play this season from the experienced Sam Hartman, but the strength for Wake Forest might be with the players who line up behind him and outside.
Christian Beal-Smith leads the Demon Deacons with 650 rushing yards this season while Kenneth Walker III has 13 rushing touchdowns in seven games. Among ACC backs, only North Carolina's Javonte Williams has found the end zone more often on the ground and he's played in four more games. After just 13 catches over his first two seasons, junior Jaquarii Roberson has enjoyed a breakout campaign for Wake Forest. With 795 yards receiving, only North Carolina's Dyami Brown averages more per game in the ACC. Donavon Greene is also a player to watch for Wake. The big-play threat ranks second in the ACC, averaging 20.0 yards per catch.
Defensively, Florida State has been absolutely abysmal this season. The Seminoles rank just 12th in the ACC in total defense, 13th in scoring defense, and dead last with just 10 sacks this season. With many of the veterans injured or having opted out, there is something of a youth movement taking place defensively for FSU. Second-year players Travis Jay and Brendan Gant each had the first interceptions of their careers in last week's win. Gant also forced a fumble.
FSU was also happy to see safety Hamsah Nasirildeen return to form last week. After recording 100 tackles last season before a gruesome late-season injury, Nasirildeen led the Seminoles with nine tackles and an interception against Duke. Linebackers Amari Gainer and Emmett Rice are FSU's top two tacklers. Senior defensive end Janarius Robinson leads the team with three sacks and is the best remaining player up front.
Florida State hasn't been good on the road or defense this season, and all the intangibles in this one point to Wake Forest. The Seminoles should be able to put up points on Wake Forest, but given that the Demon Deacons don't beat themselves and have a variety of playmakers on offense, this one seems to favor the home team. Hartman has traditionally played well against FSU. In two prior meetings, he has 535 passing yards and five touchdowns. He'll be a difference-maker on Saturday.
Prediction: Wake Forest 45, Florida State 31
Podcast: Path to the Playoff + Championship Game Previews and Picks
— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.
(Jordan Travis photo courtesy of @FSUFootball)