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Wake Forest vs. Florida State Prediction: Pivotal ACC Atlantic Matchup on Tap in Tallahassee

Seminoles look to stay undefeated by snapping two-game losing streak to Demon Deacons.

Tallahassee will host a Top 25 showdown that doubles as a pivotal ACC Atlantic contest on Saturday when Wake Forest visits Florida State.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 5

No. 23 FSU is 4-0 for the first time since 2015 and has won consecutive ACC games. No. 22 Wake Forest is coming off its first loss of the season but gave Clemson all it wanted in a hard-fought 51-45 double-overtime loss. FSU routed Boston College 44-14 last week for its largest margin of victory in conference play since November 2016.

The Demon Deacons handed FSU its worst loss of the season in 2021, rolling past the Seminoles in Winston-Salem, 35-14. Wake Forest has won the last two meetings between the schools but hasn't defeated Florida State in Tallahassee since 2008.

No. 22 Wake Forest at No. 23 Florida State

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: ABC
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Florida State -7
Tickets: As low as $27 on SITickets.com

When Wake Forest Has the Ball

Wake Forest will enter Saturday's contest ranked third in the ACC in scoring offense. The Demon Deacons average 42.8 points per game and have scored at least 37 in every contest. The straw that stirs the drink for the Wake Forest offense is quarterback Sam Hartman. Hartman had an offseason bout with blood clots but ended up missing just one start. Last week, Hartman enjoyed plenty of success against Clemson's stout offense, finishing with 337 passing yards and six touchdowns. Despite playing in just three games, Hartman ranks in the top five nationally with 13 touchdown passes. He's also averaging 321 passing yards per game.

Out wide, Florida State must find a way to account for Wake Forest wide receiver A.T. Perry. Perry torched the Seminoles last season for seven catches, 155 yards, and a touchdown. Perry is leading the way for the Deacons again with 273 yards and averaging better than 17 yards per catch, but he's not alone. Jahmal Banks leads the ACC with five touchdown catches. Justice Ellison and Christian Turner make for a solid tailback duo, although the ground game is hardly the staple of the Wake attack. The Deacons did go for 225 rushing yards in last season's win over FSU.

Despite some critical injuries up front, the Seminoles played one of their best games defensively last week. With Jared Verse out, Derrick McLendon and Patrick Payton provided good pressure off the edge, while Robert Cooper has been a force on the interior. Florida State held Boston College to 250 total yards and under three yards per carry. Entering Saturday, the Noles rank fourth in the ACC in total defense and third in scoring defense, allowing less than 19 points per game.

Tatum Bethune, a UCF transfer, and Kalen DeLoach headline a group of linebackers that might be the best that FSU has had in a long time. Bethune is the team's leading tackler with 25 total stops. In the secondary, safety Jammie Robinson does it all, and Omarion Cooper, Kevin Knowles, and Greedy Vance all have interceptions. Hartman and Co. will certainly test the Seminoles and their ACC-best passing defense (165.8 ypg).

When Florida State Has the Ball

Quarterback Jordan Travis is the headliner for the FSU offense. Travis suffered a scare in the ACC opener against Louisville on Sept. 16 but was able to play last week and threw for a career-high 321 yards in the victory over Boston College. Travis enters the week in the top 20 nationally in passer rating.

The wide receiving corps has been fueled by a pair of transfers in Johnny Wilson (Arizona State) and Mycah Pittman (Oregon). After being a sore spot last season, the Seminoles appear to have good depth out wide. A different player has led the team in receiving in each game. Tight end Camren McDonald also provides a reliable target in third- and fourth-down situations.

The passing game complements FSU's three-headed monster at tailback in Treshaun Ward, Lawrance Toafili, and Trey Benson. The trio has combined for 760 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground (three each). An improved offensive line also has done its part, as the Noles rank first in the conference in yards per carry (5.5) and are tied for fewest sacks allowed (five).

Florida State's offense should be able to continue its success against Wake Forest's defense. The Demon Deacons are 10th in the ACC in total yards (376.5) and 12th in points (30.5) allowed per game. The Seminoles moved the ball well in last season's meeting but turned it over six times in the loss. With eight takeaways (four INTs, four fumbles recovered) on the season, Wake is among the conference leaders in that category. FSU has turned it over four times in four games (three INTs, fumble).

The Deacons appear to have a decided advantage in the kicking game. While the Seminoles' Ryan Fitzgerald has had his struggles, Matthew Dennis is a perfect 8-for-8 on field goals this season. But Florida State has been able to impact games with its special teams. The team has blocked a pair of kicks, including what would have been the game-tying PAT in the season-opening win over LSU. And last week against Boston College, Trey Benson returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown — FSU's first in nine years.

Final Analysis

Despite Hurricane Ian making its way through Florida, the remnants aren't expected to impact this game. That's good news for a Wake Forest team that relies on the passing attack. Hartman will be a handful for Florida State to deal with, but the Seminoles appear to have the edge in the ground game and defensively. In what should be a close game in Tallahassee, that could be a real difference-maker.

Prediction: Florida State 34, Wake Forest 31

Podcast: Week 5 Preview, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.

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