Bowl eligibility may hang in the balance at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday Wake Forest and Florida State face off in an ACC Atlantic Division matchup of 3-3 teams. Following a heartbreaking loss to rival Miami and an open date, the Seminoles will look for its seventh straight win over the Demon Deacons on Saturday. The last three meetings, however, have been competitive, with FSU needing a long touchdown pass from James Blackman to Auden Tate to escape in the final minute last season in Winston-Salem, 26-19.
Wake Forest is coming off its worst performance of the season after getting embarrassed at home against Clemson, 63-3. The loss was the worst for the Demon Deacons under fifth-year head coach Dave Clawson. It also was the most points yielded by Wake Forest since losing 68-24 to Stanford in 2010.
The last victory for Wake Forest in the series came in 2011, and the last in Tallahassee was a 12-3 victory in 2008. The Demon Deacons haven’t scored a touchdown at Doak Campbell Stadium since 2006, when they shut out the Seminoles, 30-0. FSU’s Willie Taggart will be looking for his first ACC home victory as head coach of the Seminoles.
Wake Forest at Florida State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Florida State -10
Three Things to Watch
1. FSU rushing offense vs. Wake rush defense
If ever there was a week for Florida State to get its running game going, it may be Saturday against Wake Forest. The contest will feature the ACC’s worst rushing offense against the conference’s worst rushing defense. There is no shortage of talent in the FSU backfield with Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick, but with a porous offensive line, the Seminoles are averaging less than 93 yards per game on the ground. FSU ranks 126th nationally in rushing and 128th in yards per carry at 2.7. FSU hasn’t rushed for more than 134 yards in any contest and not more than 121 against FBS competition.
The Demon Deacons are yielding nearly 237 yards per game on the ground and nearly 346 against ACC competition. Wake Forest lost a number of prominent defensive players from last season, such as Duke Ejiofor, Grant Dawson and Jessie Bates. Essang Bassey, a junior cornerback, leads the team in tackles. Last season, Wake Forest held FSU to 140 yards rushing on 3.5 yards per carry and recorded 17 tackles for a loss. It is worth noting that Patrick rushed for 120 yards for the Seminoles.
2. Greg Dortch
While Florida State has been stout against the run this season, it has been susceptible to big plays through the air. The player most likely to challenge FSU in this regard on Saturday will be sophomore wide receiver Greg Dortch. Dortch has traditionally been more of possession receiver, but he does a number of things well for the Demon Deacons. For the year, he has 48 catches for 592 yards and five touchdowns.
With the exception of Alex Bachman’s three touchdowns, Dortch has more than double the next closest Wake receiver in each of the aforementioned categories. In addition to his work as a receiver, Dortch has a nation-leading two punt returns for touchdowns. Dortch finished with 11 catches for 110 yards for the Demon Deacons in last season’s 26-19 loss.
3. Quarterback play
Saturday’s contest will feature a pair of quarterbacks who have shined this season but have also struggled as competition has picked up. Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman was one of just a handful of true freshmen throughout the country to get the starting nod at quarterback this season. Hartman was outstanding against the likes of Tulane, Towson and Rice, but against Boston College, Notre Dame and Clemson, he totaled fewer than 400 yards passing, completed fewer than 44 percent of his passes and threw three interceptions to just two touchdowns. FSU isn’t great statistically against the pass but is talented in the secondary and has six interceptions this season.
For FSU redshirt junior Deondre Francois, the story has been similar. Francois was outstanding in wins over Northern Illinois and Louisville but made costly turnovers in losses to Virginia Tech and most recently, Miami. Francois led game-winning drives in wins over Samford and Louisville and ranks second in the ACC in passing yards and touchdowns. On the other hand, he has struggled with his reads — both in the passing and running game — and his awareness in the pocket.
With a week to prepare and a porous Wake Forest defense coming to Tallahassee for homecoming, Florida State has the opportunity to play its best game of the season. The Demon Deacons have been competitive with Florida State in recent years, however, and have a couple playmakers who could make Saturday’s contest interesting. FSU has also struggled to take care of the football and has let plenty of opponents hang around. If the Seminoles turn the ball over with regularity on Saturday, an upset is entirely possible.