FSU (3-3, 2-2 ACC) heads into Winston-Salem as a two-point underdog to Wake Forest (5-1, 1-1), which is looking to snap a seven-game losing streak against the Seminoles. The Osceola takes a look at its keys to the game for FSU on Saturday against the Demon Deacons. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. on the ACC Network.
Keys to Victory for the FSU defense
- Dominate on first down and put Wake Forest in more third-and-long situations. FSU must make Wake Forest face more second- and third-and-long (7 or more yards) than it has all season. Wake Forest has only run 23 plays (3.8 per game) of third and 7 or more.
- Make Wake Forest one-handed. FSU needs to take the running game away from Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have one of the best passing offenses in the country but also average over 200-yards per game on the ground. The Seminoles made Louisville and NC State throw the ball more than they wanted in their two ACC wins by shutting down their running attacks. FSU defensive coordinator Harlon Bennett has maintained all season that the key to slowing any offense down is stopping the run. This is especially true against an offense that is effective doing both. FSU has struggled with the two most balanced offenses it has faced, Clemson and Boise State, and it must not let Wake Forest have success in both phases as those two teams did or FSU will find itself in a shootout as a best-case scenario.
- Get to the quarterback either via sack or quarterback pressure. Wake has given up just eight sacks. Make Wake’s quarterbacks uncomfortable. The FSU pass rush must take some pressure off a Seminole secondary that has struggled all season.
- Win in the red zone. Wake has scored on 26 of its 31 red zone offensive opportunities (19 touchdowns and seven field goals). The Demon Deacons will get their share of scoring opportunities but FSU’s chances of winning go up greatly if Wake Forest is converting more scores by field goal than it is by touchdown.
- Take away the big play. FSU gave up 10 running plays of more than 10 yards and four pass plays of more than 20 yards last week against Clemson. Stopping the big play will limit Wake’s momentum and offense and will also lead to fewer scoring opportunities.
Keys to Victory for the FSU offense
- Win on first down. Wake has the 10th-best third-down conversion defense in the FBS. Opponents are only converting 28-percent of their third-down opportunities into first downs. FSU will need to put itself into as many 2nd and 3rd down and short-to-medium opportunities as it can. This will open up the playbook for the Seminoles’ offense in obvious pass situations, which in turn will help FSU in pass protection and make Wake honor the run and the pass.
- Be efficient and productive in the passing game. FSU completed more than 70 percent of its passes in wins over ULM (72%), Louisville (76.4%) and NC State (72.5%) and has completed 69 percent or fewer in losses to Boise State (67.6%), UVA (59.4%) and Clemson (48.5%). FSU struggles to run the ball effectively game-in and game-out, so productivity and efficiency in the passing game are paramount to its success on offense.
- Sustain drives/increase time of possession. Fourteen of FSU’s 17 possessions took two minutes or less of the game clock against Clemson. They had 12 drives against Clemson where they possessed the ball for four or fewer plays. These two things will help because it will take away plays from the Wake Forest offense by keeping them on the sideline.
- Produce some offense in the punt return game. Wake has punted 30 times and, while opponents have only attempted seven returns in six games, they have averaged over 19.7 yards on those opportunities. FSU punt returner DJ Matthews is averaging 9.2 yards on 11 returns this year, which is the 30th best in the FBS.
- Find some success, even if marginally so, in the run game. FSU isn’t very good at running the football, they rank 111th in the nation (118.2 yards per game) but Wake isn’t very good on defense, ranking 71st (160.5 rushing yards per game). Whichever team is more successful in the matchup of FSU’s run offense vs Wake’s run defense will give itself a huge advantage towards winning on Saturday night.
What do you think? Leave a comment below. If you enjoy reading stories like this, consider a subscription to the Osceola. Go to theOsceola.com/reasons-to-join-our-tribe to read about our staff and enjoy a 7-day free trial