Florida State football returns from the bye week with a home game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. While there are no national implications for Saturday’s contest, it is still a vital game for both teams. Each stand at 3-3 overall and are aiming for a bowl game at the end of the year.
Virtually no one during the preseason thought this game would be close. Despite the 26-19 nail biter in 2017, most assumed that the Seminoles would be heavy favorites going into the 2018 contest. Now, it’s not as secure. We provide an overview of Wake Forest through six games in 2018, and where the Seminoles might have both advantages and disadvantages.
2018 Record: 3-3 (0-2 ACC)
2018 S&P Offensive Ranking: 76th
2018 S&P Defensive Ranking: 94th
2018 S&P Special Teams Ranking: 85th
The Demon Deacons have a trio of offensive stars who have powered them to their current record.
Freshman Sam Hartman won the quarterback battle in the preseason and has shown why he’s the future of the team. He’s thrown for over 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns on 55 percent completion, though it’s not evenly distributed. Against Notre Dame and Clemson, Hartman threw for only 184 yards combined and completed less than half of his pass attempts. Six of his touchdown passes came against Rice and Towson.
Cade Carney is the workhorse running back. He’s ran it 85 times for 446 yards and four touchdowns, coming out to 5.2 yards per carry. Matt Colburn has received 78 carries but is much less effective with a 3.7 yards per carry average.
Finally, Greg Dortch remains the most lethal weapon in the receiving corps. He torched the FSU defense last year for 10 receptions and 110 yards, and he shows no signs of slowing down in 2018. Dortch already has 48 receptions for 592 yards and five touchdowns. That’s more than double the receiving yards of the next best receiver Sage Surratt.
Draft departures and poor coaching have taken a toll on the Wake Forest defense.
The Demon Deacons allowed at least 41 points in all three games against Power 5 competition, with a 56-27 loss to Notre Dame forcing head coach Dave Clawson to fire defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel. It didn’t make that much of a difference, since Clemson ran up a 63-3 final score two weeks ago. Fortunately for Wake Forest, Florida State does not have Trevor Lawrence under center, nor does it have the Clemson offensive line.
The secondary is particularly weak and has given up over 250 yards through the air against five of its six opponents. The only true standout from this group is cornerback Essang Bassey, who leads the team with 39 tackles, six pass breakups, one interception, and one fumble recovery.
It might not matter against an FSU team devoid of a ground game, but Wake Forest is especially vulnerable in this regard as well. It has surrendered over 236 rushing yards per game on nearly six yards per carry. Wake’s only hope for improvement is in its linebacking corps, where Justin Strnad and D.J. Taylor have combined for 65 tackles and 5.5 sacks on the season.
Even with a small group of notable players, Wake Forest is unable to significantly pressure opposing teams.
On Special Teams
Greg Dortch makes another appearance under the special teams section. He’s accumulated over 1,000 all-purpose yards thanks to 460 combined yards on punt and kick returns. He’s also recorded two punt return touchdowns, though both were against Towson.
Punter/Jersey Shore cast member Dom Maggio averages a mediocre 41.7 yards per punt, but has traditionally been reliable for Wake. Kicker Nick Sciba is perfect on extra points but just 9-for-12 on field goals. His season long is from 39 yards out.
An interesting tidbit when evaluating Wake Forest is the disparity between its opponents. The three wins were against an FCS team, 2-4 Tulane, and 1-6 Rice, which makes it pretty hard to project how the Demon Deacons will look against someone like Florida State. Initially, one might think that games against Boston College, Clemson, and Notre Dame would be more revealing. But all three have considerably better offenses than Florida State, though the latter two have a similar defense as the Seminoles.
Much like Florida State’s previous opponents, Wake Forest’s hopes rely on deep passes to try and take advantage of the safeties. That’s going to be difficult for an offense which leans heavily on Carney and Colburn to make later downs manageable. The Seminoles shouldn’t have any trouble shutting down the run game, but a player like Dortch will once again be a headache.
Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois sorely needs a bounce-back effort this Saturday. Not only are the Demon Deacons struggling to defend the pass, but they’re average at getting to the quarterback — they rank 69th nationally in team sacks per game. There’s no reason for FSU to struggle with scoring, especially through the air. They have an advantage in every match-up.
If the Seminoles play like they did against Miami, they’ll emerge with an easy victory over Wake Forest.