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2018 Wake Forest Football Preseason Opponent Preview: Florida State

Florida State had rough year due to the injury bug in 2017, coupled with a national championship winning coach leaving. What can we expect in 2018?

NCAA Football: Florida State at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps in one of the most interesting buildups in the coaching carousel last year was Jimbo Fisher’s desire to leave Tallahassee and go to College Station. Fisher, a few years removed from a national championship victory in 2014, decided to leave Florida State for Texas A&M.

Fisher was well-compensated for his move, signing for a large sum of $75M over 10 years. Quickly after, Florida State swooped in and hired Willie Taggart less than a year after he accepted the Oregon Ducks head coaching job. Taggart, a Florida native, wanted the chance to come home after coaching stints at his alma mater, Western Kentucky, Stanford (RB coach), WKU again as the head coach, South Florida and Oregon.

Last season, the Seminoles were defind by youth and injuries. FSU was expecting big things from Deondre Francois (a returning Sophomore starter), only to lose him in the first game of the season. Somehow, the Noles got even younger at quarterback, turning to true freshman James Blackman.

Consider this, Coach Jimbo Fisher never lost more than four games in any of his first seven seasons at Florida State, the injuries led to Noles losing five games by the end of October. Although the Noles rallied to win five of the last six to become bowl eligible, the season was a weird way to end the Fisher era. Despite the coaching change and injury questions, Florida State is still considered to have a plethora of talent, putting them very high on the expectation list.

On offense, regardless of who will win the QB battle, Florida State will likely lean heavily on Cam Akers, who in spurts dominated as a freshman. He and Jacques Patrick will lead the rushing attack aided with all-conference center Alec Eberle. Akers finished his freshman season with over 1,000 yards and 8 TDs with a 5.3 yards per carry average.

Defense wise, FSU’s defense was solid in 2017 and not quite as hampered as the offense on the injury from. FSU’s defense started the year strong against Alabama, holding the Crimson Tide to just 4.5 yards per play. However, after losing the game and their young promising quarterback, the defense also slumped, allowing 5.4 per play the next five games.

The defense will miss some strong players that have moved on to the next level. Derwin James, Matthew Thomas, Josh Sweat and Derrick Nandi are all gone, forcing the defense’s young stars to step up quickly.

Special teams wise, Florida State will continue to lead on Ricky Aguayo. Aguayo, the brother of Roberto Aguayo (second round pick), has been a good kicker for Noles, making 86% of his field goal attempts in his sophomore season.

S&P+ is projecting Florida State to be 18th with a balanced way of getting there (31st rank on offense, 23rd rank on defense). The projected wins are actually very low for the Seminoles with the S&P+ forecasting 7.1 wins. While FSU has a tough game against Virginia Tech to start the year, the Noles get a bye week to play Wake Forest before starting a tough slate against Clemson, NC State, Notre Dame, Boston College, and ending the season with the Gators.

In terms of the matchup with Wake Forest, the model gives the Noles a 67% chance of beating the Deacs. Considering both teams will have extra time to prepare and recover from the first half of the season, the October 20th matchup seems very crucial for both sides. Look for both teams to be extremely motivated in the tilt because the winner will likely have good momentum entering the home stretch of ACC play.