After a stunning stretch in which Wake Forest, a perennial ACC weakling, defeated the bullies on the conference block, Florida State, four times in six years, the series has been restored to its natural expectation.
No. 11 Florida State has won the past three meetings by a combined score of 154-6 and, with Wake Forest going through a rebuild under second-year coach Dave Clawson, the trend is expected to continue in Saturday’s game at BB&T Field.
Wake is so overmatched that the Seminoles’ biggest competition in a game in which it has jumped to a 20-point favorite might come from the weather.
Although it appears Hurricane Joaquin will spare the eastern seaboard, the area is expected to be pounded by rain. Winston-Salem is under a flash-flood warming until Sunday, and some areas of North Carolina are bracing for up to 16 inches of rain.
The last time the Seminoles dealt with weather issues — three weeks ago against South Florida — Dalvin Cook ran for a career-best 266 yards. Florida State might rely on Cook and its running game again, but it would like to see improvement from quarterback Everett Golson and the offensive line after a very pedestrian performance two weeks ago at Boston College. The offense scored one touchdown in a 14-0 victory and totaled just 217 yards, with 83 coming in its first drive.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, whose team is looking to extend its ACC winning streak to 26 games, was asked about the offense’s progress during the bye week.
“I thought it was really good,” he said. “We were physical, got better … worked on a lot of things. We’ll find out.”
While the Seminoles have gotten off to a slow start offensively, the same cannot be said for a defense that is in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense (sixth, 10.0 points per game), total defense (eighth, 256.3 yards per game) and passing yards allowed (fourth, 116.3 yards per game).
“There’s things that appear to be open, and these guys run and pursue so well that the holes just get closed up,” Clawson said. “And their pursuit in the secondary is great. It’s really hard to make big plays against them.”
Said FSU defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample: “I think our team is really malleable. I think we can form it, and it’ll go to the beat of the drum.”
The defense is expected to receive a boost from the return of 6-7, 229-pound sophomore defensive end Lorenzo Featherston, a projected starter who has not played since sustaining a knee injury midway through preseason camp.
The Seminoles are not sure if they will see more of sophomore quarterback John Wolford, who missed Wake’s 31-24 loss to Indiana last week because of an ankle injury, or true freshman Kendall Hinton, who threw for 245 yards against Indiana, a school record for a quarterback making his first career start.
Clawson said Wolford will be the starter when he is healthy but did not say if that would be this Saturday. No matter who the quarterback is, the Demon Deacons have had success throwing the ball, leading the ACC with 300.0 passing yards per game.
“They are going to spread, they are going to throw a lot of the different concepts,” Fisher said. “They throw a lot of the same concepts we do: They will be in three-wide, four-wide, empties, different personnel formations. We have to be able to pressure the passer. We have to be able to affect him.”
Saturday: No. 11 FSU at Wake Forest
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.; BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
TV/radio: ESPN; WFTL 850.
Favorite: FSU by 20.
Records: FSU 3-0 (1-0 ACC); Wake Forest 2-2 (0-1 ACC).
Series: FSU leads 25-6-1.
FSU injuries: Questionable — DL Lorenzo Featherson (knee); OL Abdul Bello (knee); OL Chad Mavety (concussion); DE Chris Casher (knee); OL Cole Minshaw (ankle); TE Jalen Wilkerson (undisclosed); DB Marcus Lewis (knee). Out — RB Mario Pender (collapsed lung); DB Tyrell Lyons (ACL); DB Ryan Green (shoulder).
Wake Forest injuries: Questionable — QB John Wolford (ankle); RB Rocky Reid (ankle); DB Ryan Janvion (concussion); DB Zach Dancel (concussion). Out — DE Duke Ejiofor (concussion).