A series of close calls through the first month of the season has led to a prevailing national narrative surrounding Florida State.
That the defending national champions appear vulnerable.
That is evidenced by single-digit victories in two of FSU’s three games against Football Bowl Subdivision competition this season, as well as the 17-point hole the Seminoles fell into before coming back to win at North Carolina State last week.
The national polls have responded in kind — FSU dropped to No.2 in the coaches’ poll, and its hold on the top spot in the AP poll has steadily slipped since the beginning of the season.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, though, doesn’t necessarily see his team’s early trials as a bad thing. The Seminoles are still 4-0, beat their top division rival, Clemson, and have yet to put together what Fisher feels is a complete game. They will get another crack at it Saturday when Wake Forest visits Doak Campbell Stadium.
“I don’t worry,” Fisher said. “You take it how it goes and play well enough to beat your opponents. And you want to see it gradually go in that direction [toward improvement] and, as crazy as it sounds, I do.”
It’s not as if Florida State doesn’t have reasons for optimism. The Jameis Winston-led offense has averaged 43.3 points per game. (Winston served a one-game suspension against Clemson.)
And FSU’s senior-laden offensive line has responded to some uneven beginnings by paving the way for crucial, run-heavy drives that helped seal wins in each of the past two games.
“It’s going to take a while [for the running game] to get going,” senior running back Karlos Williams said. “But once it gets going, it’s going to go. And it did that [last] Saturday.”
There are still concerns about the defense, especially after a number of missed tackles allowed N.C. State to score the most points given up by an FSU team since 2010.
But after allowing 24 points in the first quarter — the most first-quarter points given up in school history — the Seminoles tightened up, and the Wolfpack scored only 17 more the rest of the way.
Junior defensive back Tyler Hunter said FSU isn’t too concerned about its national perception.
“We don’t even pay attention to it,” Hunter said. “People can put us at [number] 25. I really don’t care. We’re still undefeated, so it really doesn’t matter to us. We still have to go out this week and play the games.”
Saturday’s game comes against a Wake Forest team whose only two wins have come against Gardner-Webb and Army. The Demon Deacons held a fourth-quarter lead over Louisville last week before giving up 13 consecutive points in a 20-10 defeat.
On Thursday, Fisher complimented Wake’s defense, which allows only 20.2 points per game. But the Demon Deacons haven’t been able to match that success on offense, where they rank 94th nationally in passing, 128th in rushing and 116th in points per game.
Which means that the matchup should allow FSU an opportunity to play that complete game that Fisher wants to see and shake off any hint of weakness.
“Who knows what can happen when we come out and start fast,” senior receiver Rashad Greene said. “... I’m just excited and anxious to see how we play a full game.”