The rest of the ACC has N.C. State to thank for Florida State’s recent dominance.
At least part of it.
It was a 17-16 loss at N.C. State in early October 2012 that set the Seminoles on their path back to the national elite, or at least pointed them in the right direction, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said earlier this week.
“It was another thing we had to go through to make us the team we are now,” Fisher said at his weekly press conference.
Since its last trip to Raleigh, Florida State has won 24 of 25 games, two ACC titles and a national title. Fisher wouldn’t call the 2012 loss to the Wolfpack a turning point but he did say it was a “very good learning point.”
What did FSU learn, after watching a 16-0 lead evaporate into the night as Mike Glennon led an epic second-half comeback for the Wolfpack?
“After that we just knew that we had to do what we had to do,” junior cornerback P.J. Williams told reporters earlier this week. “We had to lock in and play every game and not get complacent.”
“Locked in” is one way to put it, unbeatable is another. FSU has won 16 straight ACC games since that loss. Last week’s 23-17 overtime win over Clemson was the first since the 2012 ACC title game to be decided by single digits.
There hasn’t been much to go by, in terms of finding a common weakness, since the Seminoles went on their tear.
The oldest of tenets still apply, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said Thursday – create turnovers and pressure the quarterback.
The Clemson win Saturday was the first time FSU had a negative turnover margin in a game since the 21-15 win over Georgia Tech in the 2012 ACC title game.
FSU has played four competitive games since the start of the 2013 season: a 23-17 win over Clemson last week, a 37-31 win over Oklahoma State to start this season, a 34-31 win over Auburn in the national title game in January and a 48-34 win at Boston College last September.
In those four games, FSU’s turnover margin was even (six giveaways, six takeaways). The average score in those games was 35-28.
In the other 11 games FSU has played against major Div. I teams, the turnover margin was plus-16 (15 giveaways, 31 takeaways). The average score in those games was 53-9.
Note the correlation.
N.C. State has a plus-3 turnover margin in its first four games this season (three giveaways, six takeaways).
Doeren said his defense must pressure quarterback Jameis Winston. Auburn and Boston College sacked Winston four times, Oklahoma State got him twice.
Winston was suspended for last week’s win over Clemson, but the Tigers got backup Sean Maguire five times.
N.C. State’s defense has seven sacks this season, with three each against South Florida and Presbyterian.
“You have to be able to get (Winston) out of rhythm,” Doeren said. “He’s so good, if you let him stand back there, the receivers he has are too good.”
N.C. State’s offense, much improved with Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, might just be good enough to pull off an upset. Just consider this: FSU has lost 11 NFL draft picks on defense in the past two years. That’s a ton, even for a program that recruits at FSU’s level.
But FSU’s offense, save for the notable exception of receiver Kelvin Benjamin, has maintained most of its vital parts, especially with Winston back in the fold after a one-game suspension.
Doeren was perturbed with his defense after it gave up 34 points and 504 yards to Old Dominion on Sept. 6. The coach said his defense has made progress since then, a 49-17 win at USF and a 42-0 win over Presbyterian.
“The last two weeks they’ve played a lot better, haven’t given up as many big plays and tackled and are playing harder,” Doeren said.
To give the Seminoles their first ACC loss since their last trip to Raleigh, the Wolfpack defense will have to play at another level.