FSU vs. UNC: Keys to victory, predictions

Florida State (1-3) takes on No. 5 North Carolina (3-0) at home on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. (ABC). The broadcast team will consist of Sean McDonough, play-by-play, Todd Blackledge, football analyst, and Todd McShay and Molly McGrath on the sidelines. FSU enters the game as a 10-point underdog.

The Seminoles enter the game in search of their first ACC win and their first win against and FBS opponent this year. This is the first time since 2011 that UNC has started a season 3-0. FSU will be without wide receiver Tamorrion Terry against the Tar Heels after the junior underwent knee surgery Thursday. Terry is the most experienced player on FSU’s roster, having started 27 games in his career.

This will be the 20th meeting between the two programs. FSU holds a 15-3-1 record against the Tar Heels, but UNC won the last two meetings (2010 and ’16).

The Osceola staff takes a look at some of the keys to an FSU win over North Carolina:

Keys to Victory

Chunk Plays and the Blitz

North Carolina plays an attacking style of defense and FSU’s offense will see a variety of blitzes early and often from the Tar Heels. This should create some one-on-one matchups in the passing game for FSU quarterback Jordan Travis and his wide receivers. If FSU can get a hat on a hat against UNC’s run blitz packages, that should create seams and creases at the line of scrimmage for the Seminoles’ running backs. The Seminoles need to take advantage of those opportunities by scoring or putting themselves in position to score off chunk plays.

Aggressive on Defense

The FSU defense simply must get better against the run. Against FBS opponents the Seminoles are giving 238 yards per game vs. the run and that will not cut it against a balanced UNC offense that features one the best backfields in college football. FSU needs to load the box for the run and play tight coverage, redirect receivers and disrupt the quick passing game, which is an area UNC quarterback Sam Howell and his wide receiver corps have been very successful in this season.

Play Keep Away

FSU needs to control the football and keep its defense off the field and limit the number of plays and series UNC has with the ball. The Tar Heels have scored on more than 92 percent of their red-zone chances (12 of 13). They also have nine scoring drives, all touchdowns, of over 70 yards, and 22 plays of over 20 yards this season. UNC has shown it can drive down the field methodically or hit the home run. FSU has shown improvement under Norvell in the run game and on the offensive line and it must continue to do so. Shortening the game by being successful running the ball greatly enhances FSU’s chances of pulling off an upset. And the Seminoles have shown they have the ability to do this. Against Notre Dame they had four drives of 67 yards or more, including two drives that took a combined 20 plays and over six and a half minutes off the clock in the second half. The offense will need to be more efficient on third-down against UNC than it was at Notre Dame (2 of 14).


Patrick Burnham – UNC 37, FSU 24

Mark Salva – FSU 35, UNC 34

Bob Ferrante – UNC 38, FSU 27

Jerry Kutz – FSU 33, UNC 31