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Know Thy Enemy: Florida State

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We spoke to our friends at Tomahawk Nation about Saturday's Wake Forest vs Florida State game.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest enters this week's showdown with the ACC's dominant team in recent years, the Florida State Seminoles at 2-2. In their past nine meetings, however, the Demon Deacons are only 4-5. Can we even up the score for the decade (hehe)?

We spoke to Dylan Kidd of Tomahawk Nation (can be followed here) to check out our chance and take a deeper dive into this Florida State team. I answered some questions for FSU Nation earlier this week.

1. We have all seen Everett Golson play for like 54 games on national television. Accustomed to seeing him with the leprechauns, it’s taken some time to get used to him leading the Seminoles. After coming off two incredibly successful seasons from Jameis Winston under center (and former first rounder EJ Manuel before that), what is Seminole Nation’s impressions of Golson through four games?

After 2014, Florida State’s heir apparent at quarterback was RS Junior Sean Maguire. Many FSU fans were not enthused about this, as they believed they had seen enough of him to know that he had a limited ceiling. He played one regular season game against Clemson, last year’s top defense in the country, in mop-up duty in a blowout against Oregon, and played an uninspiring spring game. Then, the ‘Noles brought in Everett Golson and Jimbo Fisher named him the starter entering the season. I think that the expectations for Golson were probably a bit inflated for many fans. We’ve heard fans talk about how he led Notre Dame to the tile game in 2011, which is an, uh, optimistic view of his role on that team, and some expected him to play at a high level in garnet and gold.

So far, he has not. He played fairly well in the opener against what has proven to be an awful Texas State defense, but followed that performance with bad outings against South Florida and Boston College (fully recognizing that BC has a good defense). The primary reason that he was named the starter was his mobility behind a young offensive line. His run threat in the option game or designed runs adds another dimension for the defense to handle, as Maguire is quite stationary, and his ability to escape the pocket and extend plays was another key attribute that made him the logical choice. He has escaped the pocket on several occasions, but his run threat has been otherwise non-existent. Golson has failed to run the read option at all effectively, has missed checks in the run game, and consistently missed reads on FSU’s base passing plays.

If Everett Golson continues to play poorly and his run threat continues to be a non-factor, FSU may very well make a change. Jimbo Fisher has been quite non-committal about the security of Golson’s job, praising Maguire at times this week. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both quarterbacks take snaps on Saturday, whether in garbage time if FSU plays well enough to earn it, or if Golson struggles again. Florida State needs to be ready for the Miami – Louisville – Georgia Tech stretch it begins next week, and it starts with having confidence in the guy under center.

2. With all the national attention on Leonard Fournette and Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook is (quietly?) putting together some incredible numbers in Tallahasee. What kind of runner is he and where does he rank in the country at his position?

This is a really great year for running backs in college football. Dalvin Cook is just another special back, and the ‘Noles are very fortunate to have him. He has the speed, strength, and agility that all top backs do, but I think what sets him apart is his vision and feel as a runner. He’s very good at running inside, making a cut, and getting upfield. Cook is capable of breaking the long run, but also has the size and physicality to run inside. I’d have to agree with the consensus that Fournette is the best back in the nation this year, but I do think Cook belongs in the top 3-5 range. I think he’s a more polished running back than some great athletes at the position, like Derrick Henry and Jalen Hurd, and I expect him to do very well throughout the rest of his college career and into the NFL. Now, I would like to see some of FSU’s other backs spell him to keep his workload down and his production later in his career as high as it can be (including his ability to make money down the line). Mario Pender won’t play this week after he collapsed a lung in practice (yeah), but Johnathan Vickers and freshman Jacques Patrick should see some carries as well.

3. While facing inferior competition, FSU has let up only 30 points in three games. What kind of defense do the Seminoles play?

The defense is certainly the stronger side of the football for Florida State this season. While the ‘Noles lost a lot of talent off of last year’s defense, much of it may not have played to its talent a year ago. That FSU defense was also weakest in the middle, as play at defensive tackle, linebacker, and safety left a lot to be desired and made things difficult for the unit as a whole. This year’s team features excellent depth on the defensive line, a thin but talented linebacking corps, and a talented and deep (though untested) secondary. The defensive line has so far been the high point, and the defensive tackles have been particularly good. Florida State has yet to face a good passing offense, though, so we’re not quite sure how the defense will look against such an attack. We think the personnel will fare well, but as interdependent as the secondary is, we just can’t truly know until we see it.


4. Florida State is ranked No. 11th in the nation and is dangerous from all aspects of the game. But the question is: where are the Seminoles most vulnerable and how can their biggest weakness be exploited?

The way that Wake, or any other team, can stay in the game against, and even beat the Seminoles, is by forcing the FSU passing game to beat them. Florida State is a run-first football team this year for the first time under Jimbo Fisher, and its backs and the left side of its offensive line can make for a formidable running game. But, as discussed, the Seminole passing game has left a lot to be desired thus far. The offensive line hasn’t been great in pass protection, the receivers have been inconsistent, and the quarterback play has not been good. Now, there’s potential for these groups to play well on any given day because of how much talent there is, but it hasn’t come together so far. Opponents will look to take away the FSU run game and hope that it doesn’t.

On defense, we haven’t seen a clear weakness yet, except for possibly taking advantage of FSU’s linebackers in coverage where you can. It could be that a quality air attack could expose a weakness that we’re not aware of yet, but FSU may also be very good against the pass, too. What I can say is that the ‘Noles have looked good against the run and have a bunch of talented pass rushers. All that to say that I think the recipe is to get up early on FSU, take away the run, and hold on, as I don’t think FSU will have the passing offense to come from behind much this year.


5. The Seminoles are 2-2 in their last four games in Winston-Salem. What kind of memories does BB&T Field- and Wake Forest- bring back from FSU fans?

I don’t have a lot of specific memories of the 2007 game, except that it was the year after the 30-0 game in Doak that spelled the end of the Jeff Bowden era and brought Jimbo Fisher to Tallahassee. So, no harm no foul on that one. We should thank y’all for it. And while Jimbo was the offensive coordinator for the losses in ’07 and ’08, it was still a pretty awful staff dynamic and a slipping quality of players during the twilight Bowden years that he dealt with. I certainly regard that as FSU playing with one, if not both, hand tied behind its back. Those were also some high quality Wake Forest teams that deserve a lot of credit. As y’all know better than I do, Wake operates at some disadvantages relative to its competitor ACC schools in terms of resources.

The 2011 loss I remember more clearly. Fisher decided injured EJ Manuel didn’t need to start that game and figured out that he was wrong about that right before halftime, when he put him in and eventually still lost anyway. That was a bad look for him. He’s gotten better, though, and thankfully Florida State’s program is now playing with both hands untied and generally in functional positions.

6. Who is someone that Wake Forest fans don’t know by name, but will by their play on Saturday?

I’ll give you one on each side of the ball. On defense I’ll say Derrick Nnadi. He’s been FSU’s best defensive tackle so far, and I see him giving the Deacs’ front some issues on Saturday afternoon. He’s good against the run and can also rush the passer. On offense I would say Rod Johnson, who is a phenomenal talent at left tackle, but in the interest of not giving you two linemen as answers I’ll go with a hopeful answer in Jacques Patrick. He’s a five-star true freshman who fits the big back prototype role, but also has speed as well. He hasn’t gotten significant action so far, but with Pender out and a soggy game as an 18-point favorite, I’m hopeful he’ll get some burn this week.

7. PREDICTION TIME! Florida State is 18-point favorites. How do you expect this game to be played and what’s the final score?

So, we’ve told our readers to expect FSU to play a lot of ugly football games this year. The ‘Noles are a run first team with a young offensive line and dodgy passing game, but they have a quality defense and will play against a lot of teams that also feature young offensive lines. That equals a lot of low-scoring, aesthetically displeasing football contests. This may be another one of those, particularly when you throw in nasty weather, on the road, a week before Miami and FSU’s toughest stretch of games. Knowing all of that, 18 still feels low to me for some reason. I think Wake is really going to struggle to move the ball against FSU, as the ‘Noles will give the line trouble in a game that won’t be conducive to passing with the weather, and wake is 123rd in the nation in passing S&P anyway. It may not look great at times, but FSU will get its athletes loose and score. I think the Seminoles win 34-6.

Thanks again to Dylan for spending some time with us.

Stay dry, everybody!