Florida State was unable to complete a perfect October but appears to be a different team from the squad that started 0-4. Fresh off a hard-fought loss to Clemson, the Seminoles will return home with a 3-5 record (2-3 in ACC play) to face an NC State team that came in at No. 19 in the initial College Football Playoff Rankings.
The Wolfpack bounced back from a loss to Miami with a 28-13 win over Louisville to improve to 6-2 on the season (3-1 in conference games). NC State still controls its own destiny in the ACC Atlantic race.
The home team has won the last three meetings between these ACC divisional foes. Last year in Raleigh, the Wolfpack dominated with a 38-22 victory. Florida State won the last meeting in Tallahassee two years ago, 31-13. Despite alternating wins the last three seasons, only two of the last eight meetings have been decided by fewer than 15 points.
No. 19 NC State at Florida State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 6 at 4 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: NC State -2.5
When NC State Has the Ball
Statistically, NC State ranks in the middle of the pack in the ACC in most offensive categories, but the Wolfpack have a lot of talent on that side of the ball. Quarterback Devin Leary doesn't take a lot of deep shots, but he is efficient and takes care of the football. Leary has 2,161 passing yards this season to go with 23 total touchdowns and just two interceptions. NC State is at its best, however, when it's able to run the football. Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. form a solid 1-2 punch. In losses this season, those two were largely contained.
Of the two backs, Person is the better receiver. At the pass-catching positions, Emeka Emezie, Thayer Thomas, and Devin Carter are a solid trio of wide receivers. Carter and Emezie are both big, complete receivers who can make the tough catches over the middle or stretch the field. Thomas is the quintessential possession receiver with a team-high six touchdown catches this season. Ikem Ekwonu headlines a solid NC State offensive line. The Wolfpack are averaging 4.4 yards per carry and have allowed just 12 total sacks.
Florida State ranks seventh in the ACC in scoring and total defense and a big reason for the improvement is transfers. Defensive end Jermaine Johnson, who played at Georgia last season, leads the team and ranks second in the ACC with 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss. South Carolina transfer Keir Thomas, Robert Cooper, and Fabien Lovett also are solid pieces up front. At linebacker, Amari Gainer and Kalen DeLoach headline the contingent, but the Seminoles could soon be getting back last season's second-leading tackler in Emmett Rice.
The secondary has been the weakness for Florida State, but the Seminoles have seen improvement there during their recent 3-1 stretch. Jarvis Brownlee has played much better after a tough start while safety Jammie Robinson, another South Carolina transfer, is a tackling machine. The FSU defense also has scored touchdowns in consecutive weeks. That had not happened since 2017.
When Florida State Has the Ball
As the season has gone on, the Florida State offense has found its identity as a run-first football team. Running backs Jashaun Corbin and Treshaun Ward have combined for 1,154 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. The two rank first and third, respectively, in the ACC in yards per carry, but both were quiet last week while redshirt freshman Lawrance Toafili left his mark in the loss to Clemson. Toafili led FSU with 85 yards from scrimmage, including an electrifying 68-yard touchdown reception.
FSU's resurgence on offense, however, coincided with Jordan Travis reclaiming the reins as the team's starting quarterback. Travis has been efficient as a passer over the last four games but is probably still more dangerous with his legs. On the outside, FSU doesn’t have a proven "go-to guy," but wide receivers Andrew Parchment, Ontaria Wilson, and Keyshawn Helton plus tight end Camren McDonald have all had their moments. The FSU offensive line has improved since the start of the season.
The unit doesn't seem to get talked about much, but the NC State defense ranks third in the ACC in total defense and is behind only Clemson in scoring defense. The Wolfpack are stout in the middle of the defensive line, and that is largely thanks to FSU transfer Cory Durden. Davin Vann and Davin Joseph also have been solid for NC State up front.
The Wolfpack entered the season with one of the nation's best linebacking corps, but it has been depleted by injury. Payton Wilson was the first one lost to a season-ending injury, in the team's second game, and then more recently it was Isaiah Moore who went down. Despite these injuries, Drake Thomas is having an All-ACC-caliber season, leading the team with 68 total tackles, four sacks, and two interceptions. Vi Jones also is doing his part with 2.5 sacks and nine QB hurries. In the secondary, safety Tanner Ingle can play both the run and pass. With Derrek Pitts Jr. and Shyheim Battle out wide, the Wolfpack are yielding the second-fewest yards per pass attempt in the ACC.
Florida State failed to get anything going on the ground last week against Clemson, and whether it can against the Wolfpack could ultimately decide Saturday's contest. After a lackluster performance against Miami and a rough start against Louisville, NC State seemed to have gotten things back together in the fourth quarter against Louisville. For all of its faults, FSU has been pretty solid against the run this season and will likely gear up to stop it and try to force NC State into third-and-long situations. In the end, look for the Noles to deal the Pack a deadly blow to their postseason aspirations.
Prediction: Florida State 28, NC State 26
Podcast: Week 10 Predictions, CFB Playoff Rankings Debate and Conference Expansion News
— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.