|FSU Run Game vs UNC Defense
Whatever was ailing the FSU run game seemed to be treated with a visit to Tampa. Improved blocking by the tight ends and wide receivers combined with the play of Brock Ruble at right tackle paved the way for Dalvin Cook to set his career high in rushing and the Noles came 1 yard short of the FSU single game rushing record. Cook ran with explosion and aggression that we hadn’t seen this year and he had more room to work with. Jacques Patrick had a nice game, too, going over 100 yards and providing the abusing physical style that’s expected of a big back.
North Carolina is 105th in the nation giving up 4.98 yards per carry and 118th in the nation allowing 240 yards per game on the ground. Those numbers are not adjusted for opponent and S&P+ doesn’t provide offensive and defensive breakdowns until after the 5th game of the year. The Tar Heels have given up 280+ yards rushing twice already this year to Georgia and Pittsburgh.
Florida State should be able to establish the ground game and run all over Tar Heels on Saturday.
|FSU Passing Game vs UNC Defense
Carolina is only giving up 184 yards per game through the air, but have a pass defensive efficiency of 129.54, 70th in the nation. They boast really good corners, but the safeties and linebackers can be taken advantage of, particularly if Florida State is able to establish the run game that sets up playaction. That bodes well for the Noles as Ryan Izzo is a good tight end and Dalvin Cook is good out of the backfield.
After getting his career started off with a bang, Deondre Francois has come back down to earth a bit. Over the last two games, the redshirt freshman has completed just 18 passes for 270 yards. On the bright side, FSU looks to have settled on an offensive line and Auden Tate is beginning to emerge as a big target on the outside.
The Noles can have success through the air, but the ground game is where they need to be focus and establishing that will open up the air attack that much more.
|UNC Run Game vs FSU Defense
North Carolina has a really good run game led by Elijah Hood, someone should tell that to the Tar Heel coaches. To put it in a statisical perspective, Carolina is 38th in the nation averaging 4.97 yards per carry, but 100th in the nation averaging just 136 yards per game. That’s because they run the ball just 27 times a game, 124th in the nation. This has been an ongoing issue for a couple of years and helped directly lead to losses against South Carolina in 2015 and Georgia to open the 2016 season. The Tar Heels will run some zone read with quarterback Mitch Trubisky, but he is nowhere near as dynamic as Lamar Jackson or Quinton Flowers.
Florida State has been dreadful against the run this year giving up 205 yards per game, 99th in the nation, and 5.45 yards per carry, 121st in the nation. That said, the vast majority of that damage, 604 of the 823 total rushing yards, has been against teams running the zone read with an explosive running quarterback. It remains to be seen if taking away that aspect of a rushing attack will make a big difference in the run defense, but I have a hunch that it might.
Based on what’s happened thus far, North Carolina has to be given the advantage. However, I don’t think it will be as much as the statistics might dictate based on the style.
|UNC Pass Game vs FSU Defense
Mitch Trubisky has been tremendous this year ranking in the Top 10 in yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt, passer rating and Top 15 in touchdowns and yards per game. He also hasn’t thrown an interception this season. The Carolina offense has some nice targets on the receiving end led by Ryan Switzer. Switzer is a return specialist with 7 punt returns for touchdowns in his career. He has good speed and excellent quickness. Last week he had 16 catches for 208 yards.
Florida State didn’t have the busts in the secondary against South Florida like they have in previous games, but Tavarus McFadden did get beat on the opening play of the game for a long touchdown. Outside of that, though, the secondary played well and had a couple of interceptions. Missing Derwin James is without question impactful as AJ Westbrook has not been impressive. Trey Marshall is reportedly fine after missing much of the second half against South Florida and that’s a good thing. Marshall absence correlated to a stark increase in yards per play averaged by the Bulls (though, admittedly that was more due to the running game than the passing game).
This matchup is the biggest toss up in my mind, but due to the inconsistency of the FSU defense thus far, I think the Tar Heels will have success and have the advantage in this matchup.
North Carolina has some dynamic returners led by Switzer returning punts. TJ Logan is averaging almost 28 yards per kickoff return and has a 90 yard return for a touchdown this season. Nick Weiler is 4 of 6 on field goals this season and is blasting about 60% of his kickoffs for touchbacks.
The Noles have seen the emergence of Bobo Wilson as quite the threat returning punts and Kermit Whitfield is a candidate to break a long kickoff return at anytime. Ricky Aguayo has been excellent this year picking up right where his brother left off. Logan Tyler is bombing kicks through the endzone when needed and has been solid, if unspectacular, punting thus far.
Two really good offenses against two suspect defenses. That has the makings of a high scoring shootout. Outside of the debacle in Louisville, the Noles have had no problems scoring on teams and putting up big offensive numbers. Likewise, North Carolina’s offense has put up strong numbers this season.
That said, for some reason I like this matchup for Florida State. Though Trubisky is not a statue by any means, he won’t be anything like facing the aforementioned Jackson or Flowers. I think the Noles can put pressure on him and if the Noles can limit the outright coverage busts, they have the coverage skills to slow (not shut down) the Carolina passing game. In my mind, a more straight up style rushing attack plays better to this version of the FSU defense as well. This is assuming that Derrick Nnadi and Trey Marshall are good to go this weekend, however.
While the Noles will give up yards and points, I think they outscore the Tar Heels and win semi-comfortably.