Always happy to connect with another SBNation site and Tomahawk Nation is one of the best in the biz. I got to sit down with Dylan Kidd of TN to see what’s been going on with the Seminoles and what he sees happening come Saturday. You can go see my answers to their questions here
BSD: Obviously with the devastating hurricane, things have been a challenge, but what's been the main thing to go wrong for this 0-2 start?
TN: It has been a really strange start to the season, even though game one went about as expected for most reasonable FSU fans. I thought the Seminoles acquitted themselves very well against Alabama and was optimistic about their chances for the rest of the season as the fourth quarter wore on. Then Deondre Francois went down, and FSU faced its first curveball of the year. While most fans probably dropped their win total expectations down a game or so, I wouldn’t have told you the sky was falling at that point. Then the hurricane happened and James Blackman didn’t get the benefit of his tune-up game against Louisiana Monroe, which was quickly followed by the postponement of the Miami game.
So, after two weeks off, the Seminoles trotted out a true freshman who had been on campus for 9 weeks against a very good NC State defensive line last Saturday. After a slow start, he actually played quite well. Problem was, the vaunted defense that had dominated Alabama up front did not. To be sure, it was somewhat of a perfect storm. FSU suffered some fluky bounces, questionable calls, and an excellent Wolfpack offensive effort, which when combined with an unacceptable defensive performance, proved too much to overcome. Not to mention that FSU’s best receiver, Auden Tate, went down with a shoulder injury.
I’d say the two key injuries have been the biggest issues to date, along with the fact that the FSU defense doesn’t appear to be as consistently dominant as we hoped and believed it would be after Alabama. The ‘Noles are completely loaded on the defensive side of the ball and their performance last week calls the coaching staff’s performance into question.
BSD: On the flip side what's been the bright spot?
TN: For all that complaining, FSU has lost to the #1 team in the country and a good NC State team and has flashed its potential for substantial portions of each. As mentioned, the defense was downright nasty against Alabama and while it’s probably not realistic to expect that level of effort every week, they are certainly capable of shutting down just about anyone. The ultra-talented receivers have also shown glimpses of taking the next step, as Keith Gavin played well against the Tide and George Campbell showed a bit of his 5-star talent last week. Cam Akers has flashed too and almost broke one last week. And for all the crap fans like to give the offensive line, they played well against ‘Bama and played much better than most believe last week. That’s to say nothing of James Blackman, who looked much better than a 3-star true freshman had any right to in his first appearance. Overall, FSU has shown what it’s capable of for enough of those first two games for fans to hold onto hope that they’ll put it all together as the year rolls on.
BSD: For those who don't know, who is Derwin James and how well has he been playing?
TN: Derwin is one of the more physically gifted players we’ve ever had at FSU, and that’s a pretty big statement to make. You’ll see him line up deep at safety, in a linebacker spot, and you might even see him with his hand on the ground in a defensive end alignment on Saturday. His speed, strength, and instincts make him an elite player and he’ll be a high draft pick this spring. As to how he’s playing this year? Well, you might have seen him make one of the worst plays I’ve seen from him last week when he was tentative waiting for the NC State receiver to cut back on the long touchdown before the half. That was ugly. But overall I think he’s been fine. He took the loss last week really hard and vowed to make more plays, which is nice but that wasn’t the problem. The Seminole defense was out-coached and out-played, and that needs to change quickly for everyone’s sake.
BSD: What matchup(s) do you think pose the biggest problems for the Seminoles going into this game?
TN: As an FSU fan, it’s hard not to think that this is exactly the set-up for the Demon Deacs to give the ‘Noles a frustrating game. It’s in Winston-Salem the week before a rivalry tilt with Miami and it features an experienced, rock-solid Wake team. The Seminoles are so prone to sleepwalking against the Deacs that you can almost feel it coming. I expect Wake Forest to be patient and make FSU execute down the field on both sides of the ball, which has the potential to frustrate the ‘Noles and a freshman quarterback in his first road start. The Deacs like to get FSU’s defense moving laterally and slip someone out on the back side to catch them napping occasionally, as well as to send a pass over the top off of play-action when they’ve lulled the ‘Noles to sleep. I do think the loss last week and sitting at 0-2 helps FSU to ramp up the urgency this week in what would normally be a classic lookahead spot to the ‘Canes, though. But I won’t be at all surprised to find myself uncomfortable on Saturday afternoon.
BSD: Does the significant drop in the spread scare you at all?
TN: Not too much because as soon as it opened at 10 I think the consensus among our staff was that was too high. From a betting numbers perspective I think the space from 10 to 7.5 is pretty dead, but if it got south of a touchdown I think it would indicate a really substantial shift. But as I mentioned, we’re well aware of the challenges Wake presents and I don’t think an FSU blowout is the most likely outcome.
BSD: Prediction: Will FSU come out with their first win of the season?
TN: It’s been interesting to see the fan reaction to FSU’s first two games. After Alabama, everyone was saddened by the loss of Francois but elated at the team’s performance otherwise. Many predicted only a slight drop-off, and some thought the ‘Noles would weather the loss just fine and compete for the conference title. After NC State, fans think FSU is terrible and may struggle to make a bowl game. The reality is probably somewhere in between. While I do have concerns about the defensive coaching staff, I think it was a confluence of factors that led to the loss last week and I think they rebound against Wake. I’m looking for the running game to really get going, as it hasn’t had much of a chance to against Alabama and NC State. I want to see the line go to work downhill and Cam Akers break free a few times. I don’t expect Tate to play, so the other wideouts will have to step up in his stead. I think a good Wake defense keeps it close for a while, but the ‘Noles find their footing and pull away in the second half. I’ll take FSU 31-16.
What do you guys think will happen on Saturday afternoon?