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Florida State Seminoles vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons Preview and Prediction

James Blackman

James Blackman

Hurricane Irma certainly played a part, but to avoid going winless in September, Florida State will have only one chance left to get a victory. Fresh off a loss to NC State at home, the Seminoles are unranked for the first time since 2011. On Saturday, FSU also will try to avoid doing something else it hasn’t done since that year — losing three straight games.

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Jimbo Fisher and company will face Dave Clawson’s Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Wake Forest is off to a 4-0 start for the second straight season and will look to avoid a sixth straight loss to the Seminoles on Saturday. The last victory for the Demon Deacons in the series came in 2011 by a 35-30 score.

While FSU was falling to NC State last week, 27-21, the Deacons narrowly escaped Appalachian State with a 20-19 victory. Wake Forest hasn’t started 5-0 since 2006. FSU hasn’t started 0-3 since 1976 — legendary head coach Bobby Bowden’s first season.

Florida State at Wake Forest

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 30 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Florida State -7.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Quarterbacks

Like NC State’s Ryan Finley last week, Florida State will be facing a quarterback who has yet to throw an interception this season in Wake Forest’s John Wolford. Wolford hasn’t been the most consistent quarterback throughout his career, but he seems to be putting it all together as a senior with 11 total touchdowns and no picks. He also leads the Demon Deacons with 269 yards rushing. Wolford struggled in last year’s contest, but he has been nothing short of efficient so far this year. Wolford will need to have a big day for a Wake Forest offense that has scored just one touchdown against the Seminoles since 2012.

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Last week, James Blackman became the first true freshman quarterback to start for FSU in 32 years. Blackman performed admirably with 278 yards passing and a touchdown, but he saw his production dip once leading receiver Auden Tate went down with an arm injury. Tate is unlikely to play this weekend against the Demon Deacons, so Blackman will need to get comfortable with his other receivers in what will be his first career road start.

2. Freshman running backs

Both Florida State and Wake Forest like to spread the carries between their runners, but the most dynamic player in the backfield for each team is a freshman. For FSU, Cam Akers was among the nation’s top running backs out of high school and made strides last week with 55 yards rushing on 12 carries. As the season goes on, expect Akers’ role to be bigger, beginning this week against the Demon Deacons. The Seminoles as a whole need to be better on the ground to take pressure off their true freshman quarterback.

Wake Forest has become accustomed to being one of the worst rushing teams in the country, but redshirt freshman Arkeem Byrd has done his part to change that. Byrd has rushed for 233 yards this season on 6.1 yards per carry and gives the Demon Deacons a legitimate home-run threat in the backfield. Byrd’s only touchdown was a 59-yard scamper in a rout of Utah State.

3. FSU O-line vs. Wake D-line

After facing Alabama and NC State to open the year, Florida State’s offensive front will have another talented defensive line to try and block. The Seminoles had a nightmare week in Tallahassee trying to block Bradley Chubb of NC State and defensive end Duke Ejiofor of Wake Forest has similar talent. Ejiofor’s sack numbers are down, but he leads the Demon Deacons with seven tackles for loss.

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At the defensive tackle spot, Zeek Rodney is very good with five tackles for a loss this season. Not only are the Demon Deacons talented up front, but they’re also deep. They should be able to provide a real challenge for Alec Eberle, Landon Dickerson, Derrick Kelly and an FSU offensive line that hasn’t been able to generate much push so far this season.

Final Analysis

Wake Forest has historically played FSU tough, including in each of the last two seasons. With a significant offensive upgrade this year however, this could be Dave Clawson’s best team yet. With Miami on the horizon, this would traditionally seem like a trap game for Florida State, but with an 0-2 record, it would be surprising to see the Seminoles come out anything but focused. FSU must play sound football and maximize opportunities unlike last week. Wake Forest leads the ACC in turnover margin this season, while the Seminoles have yet to take the football away.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: FSU

Prediction: Florida State 23, Wake Forest 15

— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the editor of The Daily Nole. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook and follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.