Winless Florida State visits unbeaten Wake Forest
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Florida State’s visit to Wake Forest on Saturday will match an undefeated team against one trying for its first victory.
But the teams aren’t in the roles you might expect.
This time it’s the perennial-powerhouse Seminoles (0-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) who are winless and the Demon Deacons (4-0, 1-0) who are trying to keep things rolling entering the heart of conference play.
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson isn’t buying that the Seminoles are struggling, explaining that their losses as coming to No. 1 Alabama and to a stout North Carolina State team while breaking in a freshman quarterback. They’ve also had one game postponed and another canceled due to Hurricane Irma.
”To paraphrase … Mark Twain, reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated,” Clawson said.
The oddsmakers agree, installing Florida State as a 7-point favorite. Linebacker Cole Minshew says his team is looking to ”make a statement” against a Wake Forest team that’s 4-0 for the second straight year and trying to reach a second straight bowl game after consecutive 3-9 seasons in 2014 and ’15.
The Seminoles are off to their worst start in 28 years, and the combined record of their next four opponents is 13-1. But the last time they started 0-2, in 1989, they reeled off 10 straight victories to end the season.
”We’re trying to win. We’re trying to win by a lot if we can, because we need to make that statement in order to show everyone we’re not some scrub team,” Minshew said.
They have a few issues that need to be corrected quickly. The offense has produced only two touchdowns, though freshman quarterback James Blackman earned praise from coach Jimbo Fisher after going 22 of 39 for 279 yards and a touchdown in his first career start against N.C. State.
”Ignore the clutter, ignore things outside, and do the things that are in your control about how you prepare again and come back and play it one game at a time,” Fisher said. ”There’s no magic formula, no magic dust you can put out there. You just have to finish and play a little more consistent and do a little better job and we have to practice you better, coach you better, put you in better situations, and it’s been that simple.”
Some things to know about the Florida State-Wake Forest game:
FOUR GAMES TO TWO: Because Wake Forest has played four games to Florida State’s two, the Seminoles have twice as much game film available on the Demon Deacons. Yet Wake Forest DE Duke Ejiofor says that gives his team an advantage because ”we’ve played more snaps and have more experience.”
CONVERT IN RED ZONE: Blackman did an effective job moving Florida State between the 20s, but the Seminoles struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone last week, converting just 1 of 6 opportunities. Blackman might need to rely more on tight end Ryan Izzo since Auden Tate is questionable due to a shoulder injury. Through two games, FSU has only two offensive touchdowns, both by Tate. If the junior is unable to go, sophomores Keith Gavin and George Campbell are likely to take his place.
THE SERIES: Florida State leads the series 28-6-1 and has won the last five meetings. In the six times Wake Forest has won, the Seminoles have never finished better than 9-4 (2011, 2008).
PRESSURE THE QUARTERBACK: Florida State has done a poor job generating any sort of pass rush in its first two games, which has led to opponents also converting a high rate of third downs. With the Seminoles facing another experienced quarterback this week, getting a couple sacks could provide a boost in confidence to a defense that struggled last week against N.C. State both against the run and pass.
Associated Press writer Joe Reedy in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.
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