Florida State (5-0) at NC State (3-2) Oct. 6, 8:00, ESPN2
Here's The Deal: No. 3 Florida State has a handful of tricky, potential landmine games remaining on the schedule. This trip to Raleigh is one of them. NC State has been prickly in this series over the past decade, spinning four upsets when the Seminoles were ranked. A fifth such win would put the Atlantic Division up for grabs, while pretty much ending the Noles' hopes for a national championship. Florida State took care of business the week after its big showdown win over Clemson, beating a feisty South Florida team in Tampa. The Wolfpack has been a product of its competition through the first five games. State has handled the likes of Connecticut, South Alabama and The Citadel, but fell a little short versus Tennessee and Miami, the latter in a heartbreaking shootout last Saturday. A visit from the Noles affords Tom O'Brien's kids another shot to show that they're capable of more than just moral victories.
Why Florida State Might Win: When faced with better opponents, such as the Vols and the Canes, the NC State defense has been trampled in the first half of the year. The pass rush disappears, the linebackers get exposed and even the heralded secondary suffers breakdowns. The Seminoles will counter with an offense that's yet to be held under 30 points this season. Balanced and free of a spate of mistakes, they'll mix up the runs with the speed of Chris Thompson and the power of James Wilder Jr. and FB Lonnie Pryor. And when EJ Manuel drops back to pass, he'll have a number of capable targets ranging from the backs to TE Nick O'Leary and WR Rodney Smith.
Why NC State Might Win: The Florida State D is outstanding, but the last two weekends have shown that it's not infallible. The Seminoles showed creases in wins over Clemson and South Florida that the Pack will attempt to exploit. The unit is coming off its best game of the year, burning Miami for 664 yards and five trips to the end zone. Mike Glennon threw four scoring strikes, spreading the ball around to 11 different receivers, and Tony Creecy and rookie Shadrach Thornton provided some much-needed punch in the running game. In a game that'll require a few touchdowns to win, NC State feels that it has the quarterback and the weapons to move the ball on the Seminoles.
What To Watch Out For: All games are won up front, which is not good news for the Wolfpack. NC State is having considerable problems protecting the pocket, enduring a reshuffled line that's void of star power. On the other side of the ball, Florida State features nothing but stars. The Seminoles D-line is steeped in elite talent, ranging from emerging ends Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine to knifing tackles Everett Dawkins, Anthony McCloud and Timmy Jernigan. Glennon isn't the most elusive quarterback in the ACC, a somewhat stationary target for the Florida State linemen and linebackers to attack.
What Will Happen: It's never easy going on the road in conference, especially when there's a big, fat target on your chest. Florida State, however, possesses the right mix of talent and confidence to overcome an energized crowd, and avoid the upset bid of NC State. The fact remains that the Pack is a limited program on both sides of the ball, one that shrunk in the face of quality opponents in September. The Seminoles will own the line of scrimmage, popping off big plays in the running game, and pressuring Glennon into at least a couple of key turnovers.
CFN Prediction: Florida State 39 … NC State 20
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Florida State -14.5 O/U: 55
Must Watch Rating (5 – Master, 1 – Trouble with the Curve): 3.5
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