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Game Preview: Florida State vs NC State

NC State (4-4) Bio Flash:

Head Coach: Dave Doeren

Last Year’s Record: 7-6, 3-5 in ACC

Key Players: RB Matthew Dayes, QB Ryan Finley, TE Jaylen Samuels, DE Bradley Chubb

Game Introduction:

The Seminoles enter this game after a controversial heartbreaking loss to Clemson last Saturday. They look to bounce back on the road against NC State, who have now lost three games in a row. Two of those three losses came by the hands of Clemson and Louisville, whom they faced in consecutive weeks. Last week, the Wolfpack fell late to Boston College, who notched their first ACC win since 2014 via a trick play. While Florida State may have a little ‘Clemson hangover’, NC State certainly won’t come out hyped about last week’s performance either. This game may be tough to watch for the first quarter, so buckle up. This game will be under the lights at 7:00 in Raleigh, North Carolina on ESPNU.

Headlines:

Nyquan Murray on the rise at wide receiver

How good did the sophomore look against Clemson? If it’s a sign of whats to come, then Florida State has an emerging star in Murray at wide receiver.  He had 6 receptions for 96 yards and showcased his fantastic hand-eye coordination on his touchdown catch. What most impressed me about Murray was his ability to contribute in all facets of the game. He had a fantastic block on Cook’s last touchdown run, and was all over the field with his routes. Murray proved he is not only a threat in the screen game, but also a threat down the field as he made a great adjustment to the ball on a 40 yard reception late in the second quarter. If Murray can continue his good play this season, Florida State could have a reliable weapon with a unique skill set going into next year.

Deondre Francois is tough as nails

We’ve witnessed Francois take hit after hit this year. The Florida State offensive line has been too inconsistent for Francois to ever feel comfortable in the pocket, and his health will be a huge concern for the rest of the season. It makes me wonder how close Francois is to his breaking point, and if we may see Sean Maguire one more time. Whatever happens, this has been a weird season and lets hope the offensive line can give 12 a couple of seconds in the pocket every now and then.

The focus is now on 2017

If you weren’t looking ahead to 2017 before the Clemson game, you might as well be now. It was clear in Head Coach Jimbo Fisher’s strategy that he is getting ready to regroup this offseason for a title run next year. Running Dalvin Cook into the ground rather than spelling him with Jacques Patrick is just one example of evidence for this. Patrick got some carries early in the year, but has virtually been a ghost since the USF game. Fisher very well knows this is Cook’s last year, and is trying to get every ounce out of Dalvin all while keeping next year’s RB one fresh. Nyquan Murray’s increased role in the offense is another example of this. Fisher wants Francois to start  building more chemistry with Murray and other young receivers such as Auden Tate. This strategy is even occuring on defense, as DeMarcus Walker is being used on nearly every down, while young guys like Levonta Taylor, Kyle Meyers, and AJ Westbrook are getting quality playtime in the secondary. Be on the lookout to see if Jacques Patrick gets any carries come Saturday, or is once again limited by Fisher.

Burning Questions:

Will there be any changes along the offensive line?

If Jimbo Fisher’s press conference tells you anything, the answer to this question is no. Look, the offensive line certainly has had its problems this year. But it hasn’t been that bad compared to some units around the country. Florida State took in one of the country’s best offensive line recruiting classes in Tribe 16, and one member of that class is already starting at guard (Dickerson). The line was able to open enough holes for Dalvin Cook to have an incredible game, and the ‘Noles were able to put up 34 points on a good defense. The sacks allowed late in the game seemed to be mental errors, and inconsistency is the main issue plaguing what has the potential to be a solid unit. They just need time to develop, and the 2017 offensive line should be much improved.

What should we expect from Dalvin in his final games?

Is it safe to say Dalvin Cook is the best running back to ever play at Florida State? Just imagine for a second if he never flipped his commitment from UF to FSU. Will Muschamp might still be coaching in the swamp. But, Dalvin Cook is a ‘Nole, and he has certainly cemented his legacy alongside past Seminole greats. There is a 99% chance he declares for the NFL Draft after this season, and will be making a lot of money very soon. In my opinion, the rest of this year is the de facto “Dalvin Cook retirement tour”. Florida State may never see a running back as good as Dalvin Cook ever again. As I said earlier, Coach Fisher has been pounding the rock with Cook, and I don’t expect that to change in the last four games. Come Saturday, expect over 25 touches for Cook, who should be in for another big game.

Will FSU rise to the occasion on the road?

Florida State has an embarrassing history of weird losses to teams they shouldn’t have lost to. Saturday has the potential to be another one of those days. However, NC State is on a three game skid is playing some of their worst football this year. Florida State meanwhile, has been playing better every week since the North Carolina game. And, if perhaps not for a controversial flag on a fifty-yard Dalvin Cook run, the ‘Noles could be in the top-10 with a 6-2 record. Nonetheless, these teams are trending in opposite directions and Florida State should take advantage of an average NC State in rebuild mode.

Forecast:

This game is going to be a lot closer than most think. NC State took Clemson to overtime, and would have beat them had they made a field goal as regulation time expired. They were unfortunate to play Louisville the next week, and got dismantled just like the ‘Noles did. The Boston College loss definitely hurts for NC State, but it was a hard fought game that the Wolfpack almost pulled off. Florida State on the other hand may come out a little slow, but that should be expected by now. The ‘Clemson hangover’ shouldn’t last too long, maybe a quarter or so. Dalvin Cook is playing arguably his best football right now and once he gets going he is very hard to stop. If the offensive line can open enough holes for Cook like they did against Clemson, he could very well be in for another huge day on the ground. Even though NC State has proven to be a quality football team this year, the emerging talent on Florida State will be too much for the Wolfpack in the end. I’ll take the ‘Noles 34-20 in a very strange game.

Ben Brewton
Writer at Nole Gameday covering football and basketball. FSU alum. Follow me on twitter (@Ben_Brewton) and we can talk sports. On the 8th day, God created college football.

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