Florida State made a major statement on Saturday by knocking off then third-ranked Clemson 51-14 at Memorial Stadium. The victory was the first for Florida State at “Death Valley” in over a decade as the Seminoles are 6-0 for the first time since 1999 and ranked second in the BCS, their highest ranking in the poll since 2000.
After a signature road win that has many thinking national championship, Florida State returns home to face the only team to beat FSU in conference play a season ago, North Carolina State. N.C. State is off to a 3-3 start, but is 0-3 in ACC play and the only team in the Atlantic division without an ACC victory.
Saturday will also be “Bobby Bowden Day” in Tallahassee as the legendary head coach that spent 34 seasons with the Seminoles will return to Doak Campbell Stadium and plant the spear at midfield during Florida State’s traditional pregame ritual. As the legend is honored, current Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher will look to improve to 38-10 as head coach of the Seminoles since taking over for Bowden following the 2009 season.
Florida State will be led by freshman quarterback and Heisman hopeful, Jameis Winston, offensively. Winston passed for a career-high 444 yards and finished with four total touchdowns in the Seminoles’ victory at Clemson. Also having a big day last Saturday were wide receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary.
Greene finished Saturday’s contest with a season-high 146 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns. Greene in two career trips to Death Valley has 16 catches for 244 yards and three scores. Greene is on pace to lead the Seminoles in receiving for a third straight season and become the first 1,000-yard receiver that Florida State has had since 2002. Greene also leads Florida State with seven touchdown grabs.
O’Leary finished with a career-high 161 yards receiving in the victory over Clemson including a 94-yard reception in the fourth quarter. O’Leary is also tied for second nationally among tight ends with five touchdown receptions.
The N.C. State offense has really struggled of late and in ACC play, is averaging just over 12 points-per-game. Quarterback Pete Thomas is completing 61 percent of his throws, but has just three touchdown passes compared to eight interceptions. The Wolfpack rank 10th in the ACC in scoring, but have scored the fewest touchdowns in the conference.
Defensively, N.C. State had been solid for much of the season, but allowed a season-high 362 yards rushing to Syracuse its last time out in a 24-10 loss at Raleigh. The Wolfpack have had an extra week to prepare which could be huge as they get set to face a FSU ground attack led by Devonta Freeman that averages better than 210 yards-per-game. N.C. State will need a big day from linebacker Robert Caldwell, who ranks seventh in the ACC with 48 total tackles, if they hope to hang with the Seminoles.
On the defensive side of the football for Florida State, cornerback Lamarcus Joyner is coming off of a big game as he finished with three forced turnovers, two fumbles and an interception against Clemson. Senior linebackers Telvin Smith and Christian Jones also had solid weeks each recording eight tackles.
Florida State will look to avenge a 17-16 loss to the Wolfpack last season in Raleigh, a game in which the Seminoles let a 16-0 lead slip away, on Saturday. Since becoming the head coach at Florida State, Jimbo Fisher has never lost to an ACC school in back-to-back seasons. Florida State has won the last three over N.C. State in Tallahassee including a 34-0 shutout in the last meeting back in 2011. Since 1998 however, N.C. State is a respectable 7-8 against the Seminoles and since 2001, the teams are an even 6-6 against one another.
The Wolfpack will be looking for their first win at Doak Campbell Stadium since a 20-15 victory in 2005 and their first ACC victory of the season. At 6-0, Florida State is bowl-eligible, but a win on Saturday would mark 32 straight seasons with at least seven victories. The contest will kick off at 3:30 P.M. eastern time and air regionally on ABC and ESPN2.