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GAME PREVIEW: Florida State at North Carolina

Can the Seminoles pull off another upset?

Game Introduction

Florida State (1-4, 1-2 ACC) finally got into the win column with a 33-30 win over Syracuse, courtesy of a game-clinching field goal from kicker Ryan Fitzgerald. Tight end Camren McDonald found the endzone for the first time this year, and running backs Treshaun Ward (66 yards) and Jashaun Corbin (65) each turned in solid days on the ground. On the defensive side, safety Jammie Robinson led the ‘Noles for the second consecutive week in tackles (9). The linebacker unit was led by Kalen DeLoach (seven tackles, three solo) and DJ Lundy (seven tackles, two solo). This weekend will be a step up in competition, with head coach Mack Brown and North Carolina. It will be FSU’s first road contest since Sept. 18.

READ MORE: QB commit AJ Duffy "locked in all the way" with Florida State

North Carolina (3-2, 2-2 ACC) is coming off a 38-7 victory against Duke. In the win, quarterback Sam Howell threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns. He is up to 14 touchdowns, with six belonging to wide receiver Josh Downs (40 receptions, 620 yards). Ty Chandler is the leading rusher (74 attempts, 423 yards, four touchdowns). The Tar Heels defense isn't menacing by any means, but they do have talent at the linebacker position (Jeremiah Gemell, team-high 26 tackles) and at defensive back (Ja’Qurious Conley, team-high two interceptions).

In the 2020 matchup, the ‘Noles defeated the Tar Heels 31-28.

The game is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 9. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m on ESPN.

Seminole Headlines

The impact of Jordan Travis

Travis made his return as the ‘Noles starting quarterback, and didn’t disappoint. He threw for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 22-of-32 passing, but also hit the century mark on the ground (113). His 33-yard run with 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter eventually set up the game-winning field goal.

The Tar Heels have been vulnerable against the run at times this season, They allowed 261 rushing yards in a 45-22 loss against Georgia Tech two weeks ago. As a dual-threat quarterback, Travis allows Florida State’s rushing attack to fulfill its potential. As long as the game doesn’t get out of hand early, Corbin, Travis and Ward could be due for major production.

READ MORE: Wide receiver with ties to FSU staff member enters Transfer Portal

Big test for Seminoles secondary

Howell is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and it's reflective in the North Carolina offense. The Tar Heels are averaging 37.6 points per contest, and have scored 59 points on two occasions. In total, they’ve averaged 487 yards per game. After Downs, wide receivers Emery Simmons (23.6 yards per catch) and Antoine Green (22.8 yards per catch) are also capable of making big plays down the field.

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Through five games, Florida State is allowing roughly 256 passing yards per game. Robinson seems to have momentum, but his impact is felt more in the run-game. For cornerbacks Jarrian Jones and Jarvis Brownlee Jr., they have an argument for the most responsibilities on Saturday. If they can stay disciplined and hold their own against the Tar Heel receivers it's possible the Seminoles find success, If the secondary finds themselves in coverage for extended periods of time, there's an issue with getting pressure from the defensive line (one sack against Syracuse).

Burning Questions

Can Florida State get off to a strong start?

A year ago, the ‘Noles held a 31-7 halftime lead. Even with the 21-points scored from the Tar Heels in the second half, FSU held on. If Florida State wants to pull off another upset, it's imperative they replicate last year's performance and start fast.

A strong offensive performance hasn’t exactly been the case so far this season. The ‘Noles were down 31-14 at halftime two weeks ago against Lousiville, and 27-14 a week prior in Winston-Salem. Against the Orange, the ‘Noles failed to separate at any point throughout the game until the very end.

READ MORE: Florida State Seminoles release depth chart for North Carolina Tar Heels

Does the offense have enough firepower to keep up with the Tar Heels?

Throughout this season, the Seminoles' offense has had drives where they’ve stalled and gone multiple possessions without points. Similar to when these two met in 2020, Norvell and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham need to scheme easy, quick-hitting plays to keep up with the opposing offense.

The secondary of North Carolina will be one of the toughest the ‘Noles receiving corps see all season. McDonald and Keyshawn Helton each recorded a touchdown versus Syracuse, but will face a much tougher challenge winning one-on-ones Saturday. The longest completion against the Orange was 14-yards. In contrast, in last year's bout the ‘Noles hit pass plays of 58, 39, 36 and 33. If the Tar Heels keep up their scoring output, Florida State will need to have its most explosive offensive performance of the season to stay in the game.

Forecast

The Tar Heels' offense is explosive and could have their best performance of the season Saturday. The Florida State defense is allowing 31.4 points per game, and have had troubles with the conference's top quarterbacks (Sam Hartman, Malik Cunningham). For Norvell and Florida State, they can’t afford to fall behind by multiple scores in the first quarter. Travis and the ‘Noles rushing attack could turn in a big day, but the defense will have to play at its highest level if Florida State wants to earn its second consecutive win. Expect Brown, Howell and the rest of the Tar Heels to be extra motivated after last year's loss on the national stage.

North Carolina 45, Florida State 31

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