Tallahassee, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off their most impressive victory in recent memory, the third-ranked Florida State Seminoles return home to play host to the NC State Wolfpack in ACC action at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Jimbo Fisher's Seminoles had a showdown with fellow ACC powerhouse Clemson last weekend in Death Valley, but it was FSU that looked the part of a national title contender, routing the Tigers 51-14 and in the process strengthening their position atop the Atlantic Division. Florida State is now 6-0 on the season and 4-0 in ACC play, with its sights set on a second straight ACC crown. With the first BCS rankings debuting FSU at number two, the stakes are even higher going forward.
Fisher wants his team focused on the task at hand and not all the hype their current run has caused.
"I mean you have to make them aware of it because they are going to hear it every day. That's part of this whole run of going to a national championship, playing in the big games like we did at Clemson - you gotta handle the clutter," said Fisher. "You have to understand how to deal with it and make it reality, because they're going to hear it. Understand that we're there because we've done a great job of what we're doing. We don't need to stop it - preparing each week, dotting I's, crossing T's, being very detailed-oriented and playing one-game seasons. That's going to be very critical down the stretch."
Dave Doeren's first season in Raleigh has been met with mixed reviews, as his team sits at 3-3 heading into the second half of the campaign. The Wolfpack have had a particularly tough time in-conference at 0-3 and went into last week's bye off back-to-back losses to Wake Forest (28-13) and Syracuse (24-10).
Florida State leads the all-time series with NC State 22-11, but will be seeking some revenge after getting upset by the Wolfpack in Raleigh last season, 17-16.
The offensive numbers for NC State are not all that bad, considering the team is netting 24.7 ppg, on a solid 429.0 yards of total offense. Those numbers are a bit hollow however, as there doesn't seem to be a lot of star power on the offensive side of the ball in Raleigh this year.
Quarterback Pete Thomas has completed a solid 60.9 percent of his throws this season, but has really struggled with ball security, with three touchdowns against eight interceptions. He is listed as questionable for this game with a shoulder injury. Thomas' lack of consistency has made things difficult on standout wide receiver Bryan Underwood, whose modest numbers in 2013 include 30 receptions, 357 yards and just one TD (all team-highs). In fact, the team as a whole has recorded just four scores through the air in the first six games.
The ground game has had some success overall at 178.8 yards per game, but no one on the roster has even reached 200 yards on the season. Freshman running back Matt Dayes is tops on the team at just 188 yards, followed by Thomas' 184 yards.
The Wolfpack have seen a little more success on the defensive side of the ball, limiting foes to 21.2 ppg and 354.8 yards of total offense. The team has been particularly strong against the pass, with foes netting just over 200 yards per game through the air. Getting after opposing quarterbacks has been a chore however, with NC State coming into this game with just 11 sacks through six games.
Senior LB Robert Caldwell headlines the Wolfpack defense, leading the team in total tackles (48) and TFL (7.5). Senior CB Dontae Johnson is second on the team with 39 stops and has one forced fumble and one interception to his credit. Junior DE Art Norman (18 tackles) has had his moments upfield, with 6.0 TFL and a team-high three sacks.
The NC State defense will have its hands full with Florida State's offense, particularly freshman phenom Jameis Winston. The young gun slinger has been masterful in leading an offense that is averaging 53.2 ppg on a whopping 551.7 ypg. Last weekend in Death Valley, Winston played like a savvy veteran, throwing for 444 yards and three TDs, while rushing for another score. Winston is a huge reason why the Seminoles lead the nation in red zone efficiency (.971), converting 34-of-35 opportunities, with 26 touchdowns.
Winston isn't alone, as depth both in the backfield and on the outside has helped his learning process as well. The ground game is generating a healthy 210.3 yards per game, with a trio of quality backs leading the charge in Devonta Freeman (6.3 ypc, four TDs), Karlos Williams (8.5 ypc, six TDs) and James Wilder Jr. (5.5 ypc, two TDs). Wideout Rashad Greene (31 receptions, 553 yards, seven TDs) is a difference maker down the field, while fellow WRs Kenny Shaw (28 receptions, 530 yards, three TDs) and Kelvin Benjamin (20 receptions, 361 yards, four TDs) and tight end Nick O'Leary (16 receptions, 293 yards, five TDs) test secondaries as well.
A complete team, Florida State's defense has been just as impressive as the offense this season. The Seminoles are third nationally in scoring defense (12.3 ppg), second in pass defense (158.0 ypg) and sixth in total defense (285.0 ypg).
Standout performers on the defensive side of the ball for FSU include linebacker Telvin Smith and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. Smith leads the team in tackles (43 tackles, with 5.0 TFL). Joyner was the National Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts against Clemson, finishing with eight tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles and one interception. He is second on the team in tackles (33) and has three sacks on the season.