FSU vs Wake Forest: Preview and Prediction

Florida State ADVANTAGES Wake Forest
fsu_seminoles_logo_detail FSU Run Game vs Wake Defense

Florida State’s running game has been up and down this year.  While they’ve eclipsed 160+ yards in each game, they’ve averaged under 4 yards per carry in 3 contests, including last week against Miami. Some of that is on the offensive line and some of that is playing a couple of good defensive fronts.  For as great as Dalvin Cook is, some of that is on the star back, too.  For example there were several plays where if Dalvin made the proper cut he would have had much larger gains.  The Noles rank 14th in rushing per the S&P+ rankings and with a back like Cook there’s not many defenses they’ll go against where they won’t have the advantage.

Wake Forest is giving up just 3.39 yards per carry, 26th in the nation.  However, the slate of offenses they’ve faced thus far has been pretty bad and they rank 51st in S&P+. The Demon Deacons feature a larger defensive front then they have recently, but it’s still not a large group. Strong safety Jessie Bates leads the team in tackles, but middle linebacker Marquel Lee has been the most impressive with 14 solo tackles including 6 non-sack tackles for loss.

I expect Dalvin Cook to have another big game. I like the direction of the FSU offensive line with the solidifying of the starting lineup. That is dependent, of course, of Kareem Are and Landon Dickerson being okay after both were hobbled against Miami last week.

fsu_seminoles_logo_detail FSU Passing Game vs Wake Defense

Deondre Francois is winning over the hearts of a lot of FSU fans due to his grit, toughness, and ability.  The Seminole signal caller leads the 6th ranked passing attack per S&P+.  One thing Francois has done well is spread the wealth. Dalvin Cook has caught 20 balls on the year and emerging tight ends Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders have combined for 17 catches.  Jesus Wilson is having a really strong senior season and leads the team in receptions with 29 and yards with 388.

Wake Forest is giving up 249.2 yards per game through the air, 92nd in the nation.  They’ve given up nearly 500 yards to Indiana and 300+ to Duke and NC State.  Adjusted for opponent, the Demon Deacons are rated as the 63rd S&P+ passing defense in the nation. Wake does get after the quarterback pretty well averaging 3 sacks a game.

The Noles have a good advantage here and expect Francois to have a big game if Jimbo Fisher decides to lean on the passing game.  The tight ends and Cook out of the backfield will present matchup problems.  I’m interested to see if some of the younger wide recievers, Auden Tate, Nyqwan Murray, Keith Gavin, et al., get a bigger look in this game.

fsu_seminoles_logo_detail Wake Run Game vs FSU Defense

The good news, Wake is worlds better on the ground than just two years ago where they rushed for a total of 479 yards on the season and averaged 1.25 yards per carry, some of the worst number in history.  The bad news, this is still not a great rushing attack as the Demon Deacons average 4.01 yards per carry, 91st in the nation and found the bulk of their success against Delaware.  Wake ranks as the 74th rushing attack in the nation per S&P+.  They do run the quarterback a good bit with starter John Wolford second on the team in both carries (53) and yards (276).

FSU has the 33rd ranked rush defense by S&P+, but has really struggled against teams that feature running quarterbacks and the zone read. That said, they’ve also faced some extremely dynamic quarterbacks in Lamar Jackson and Quinton Flowers.  John Wolford doesn’t present that kind of challenge, but the Noles will have to play disciplined and show some growth in this area.  One positive development against Miami was the play of the defensive line.  Derrick Nnadi was the best he’s looked all year and Wally Aime is growing into quite the players in a backup role.

While the Miami game was encouraging from a defensive perspective, that was a matchup in style that favored the Noles.  While Wake is overmatched from a talent perspective, it’ll be interesting to see if the Seminole defense has grown at all this year in terms of discipline, focus, and effort against a non-rival.

fsu_seminoles_logo_detail Wake Pass Game vs FSU Defense

The Wake Forest passing attack has left plenty to be desired.  The Deacs are completing just 57% of their passes for only 6 yards per attempt and average just 170 yards per game.  S&P+ ranks the Wake passing attack 81st in the nation.  One thing Wake does do well in the passing game is spread the ball around as four different players have between 15 and 17 catches on the year. None of the wideouts are much of a deep threat, though, as the top wideout averages just over 13 yards per catch.

Florida State has gone up against some of the top quarterbacks in the country, so while they’re 84th in yards per game, 121st in the yards per attempt, and 113th in pass efficiency defense, they rank 21st in the S&P+ in passing defense. Against Miami last week, the Noles seemed to really simplify the defense and went a lot more man to man.  That eliminated some of the coverage busts that had been caused by lack of communication and confusion, but it can be easier to find and exploit matchups and against spread style teams it makes defending very difficult.  Florida State continues to be without star Derwin James and news was released this week that Nate Andrews will miss the rest of the season.  This has led to some new faces in the defensive backfield that aren’t quite ready for a team like Clemson, but should do alright against Wake Forest.

fsu_seminoles_logo_detail Special Teams

Wake Forest has a good kicker in Mike Weaver who is 7 of 8 in field goals and is putting 64% of his kickoffs into the endzone for touchbacks. Punter Dom Maggio (Seriously? Wonder who dad’s favorite baseball players was…) is averaging just over 43 yards per punt.  The Demon Deacons haven’t shown much in the return game off of punts or kickoffs.

Ricky Aguayo bounced back from a forgettable performance against UNC to make both of his attempts versus Miami and he’s hit 13 of 17 field goals on the year.  Logan Tyler continues kicking off with a lot of power, but his punting has been streaky.  Distance wise, Tyler has been okay, but low trajectory punts have allowed teams to have success in the return game.

42 Prediction

Wake Forest is trending in the right direction after hitting really low levels a few years ago, but despite being off to a nice start at 5-1 this season, they still lack the talent to challenge the more talented teams in the ACC.  The Deacs will play hard and if the Noles sleepwalk through the beginning of the game, they could be in for a fight for a while, but the depth and talent of FSU will take over eventually.

Personally, I think the Noles will come out focused and take control early in this one.


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