Game Preview: Florida State vs. NC State

Game Introduction:

After a disappointing start to the season, Florida State will make it’s return to a football field after a long few weeks. A lot of questions will be answered on Saturday, but most importantly Deondre Francois’ replacement James Blackman will get his chance starting behind center for the ‘Noles. On the other side of the ball, NC State looks to continue building confidence after a couple good weeks. The Wolfpack lost a heart-breaker to South Carolina by one possession in week one, but have bounced back nicely. Rejoice ‘Nole Nation, as Florida State returns to Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday to take on NC State at noon on Saturday. The game will be aired on ABC.


Don’t Fear the Reaper

12 is out, 1 is in. James Blackman has been appropriately nicknamed ‘Slim Reaper’, and that nickname was the inspiration for this headline. What we know about Blackman comes from high school film. He didn’t play spring ball, but was impressive enough in fall camp to jump Junior JJ Cosentino and fellow true freshman Bailey Hockman. Blackman gives us a good idea of what he brings to the table in his high school highlights. Although a bit underweight, Blackman has an absolute cannon. He can make any throw you ask of him, and brings great size to the pocket at 6’5. One can only speculate what head coach Jimbo Fisher’s game plan with Blackman will be on Saturday.

It’s Christmas in September

The FSU defense played lights out versus Alabama, and the final score doesn’t do them justice. One player in particular stood out more than anyone else on the field in week one, and his name is Demarcus Christmas. He was constantly in the Crimson Tide’s backfield, wreaking havoc on almost every play. Christmas was impossible to block for the Bama offensive line, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. Look for Christmas to be opening more presents in NC State’s backfield come Saturday.

The Defense is Elite

This is my biggest takeaway from week one. This defense is arguably Jimbo Fisher’s best since 2013. We already know how good Derwin James is, and he reminded everyone just how good he is against the Crimson Tide. Matthew Thomas looked like a starting linebacker on Sundays, and Jacob Pugh showed why he was the MVP of spring ball. Brian Burns and Josh Sweat provided plenty of pressure, and Ermon Lane made a couple of incredible open field tackles. Tarvarus McFadden, Levonta Taylor, and the rest of the Seminole’s secondary held Alabama to less than 100 passing yards. If FSU can fix the problems on special teams, there’s a very good chance they will meet Alabama again in the College Football Playoffs.

Burning Questions:

How Big of a Threat is NC State?

NC State should probably be undefeated right now. They played well week one in their loss to South Carolina, but couldn’t seem to get luck on their side in that game. Quarterback Ryan Finley is as good as they come, and could easily have a big game against the ‘Noles. The biggest threat to Florida State comes in do-it-all back Jaylen Samuels. The Senior lines up everywhere for the Wolfpack, and gives defensive coordinators headaches with his versatility. The NC State defense is very experienced, but they are no Bama. The ‘Noles are the more talented team on both sides of the ball, the question is will they show it?

Can the ‘Noles Play a Complete Game?

Slow starts have cursed Florida State over the last few years. The 2014 season made us all lose years off of our lives, and it hasn’t improved too much since then. Last year, Francois had to hit Travis Rudolph to win the game in Raleigh against the Wolfpack. Can FSU avoid a slow start on Saturday? I think this will be very important for James Blackman’s confidence. NC State has the talent and ability to punch the ‘Noles in the mouth early. It’s up to FSU to show there’s no rust after a three week hiatus.

Will Jimbo Fisher Open Up the Playbook?

A True Freshman is starting at quarterback for the first time ever in the Jimbo Fisher era. He will be facing a team that has been somewhat of an Achilles heel for the ‘Noles in the past. James Blackman has the arm talent to make every throw in the book, the question is will Jimbo Fisher let him? Jameis Winston and Deondre Francois were both let loose in their first starts, but then again they were Redshirt Freshmen. Pay attention to how much Jimbo Fisher lets Blackman throw the ball downfield. In addition, keep an eye on the ‘Noles play selection. If FSU runs the ball a lot more than pass, that will go a long way in showing just how much confidence Jimbo Fisher has in his QB.


NC State is an experienced, talented team. But they are nowhere near the level of the ‘Noles. If this game was in Releigh, it might be a different story. But Florida State has had in essence a two week rest, and should come out refreshed and energized. NC State lost their one true test of the season against South Carolina, and showed they are a middle of the road ACC team. Florida State showed they belong with Alabama, so long easily avoidable mistakes on special teams are fixed. I honestly think this one won’t be very close, even with James Blackman making his first start. NC State’s Jaylen Samuels will make a few plays, but the ‘Noles should run away with this one. I expect Blackman to shock everyone and throw for 200 plus yards and three touchdowns. The run game will find more holes, and both Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers will have a good game on the ground. My prediction is Florida State 34, NC State 17. It’s great to have FSU football back in full swing, and let us hope the only other Hurricanes to visit Tallahassee comes from Miami. Hope everyone enjoys the game, it feels good to be back in Doak.


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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