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Game Preview: Florida State vs. Wake Forest

The Seminoles will have to start strong against a high-powered Wake Forest offense.

Game Introduction 

Three consecutive AP Top 25 ranked opponents.

That is what lies ahead for No. 23 Florida State (4-0) over the next three weeks and it begins with No. 22 Wake Forest (3-1) in Week 5.

READ MORE: Florida State Seminoles release Depth Chart for Wake Forest Demon Deacons

The Seminoles and Demon Deacons are two of the most productive offenses in the country, with both programs averaging at least 37+ points and 437 total yards each.

Florida State is led by redshirt junior quarterback Jordan Travis, while redshirt senior quarterback Sam Hartman headlines Wake Forest. 

Under head coach Dave Clawson, the Demon Deacons are 2-5, with both wins coming recently in 2019 and 2021 (teams did not meet in 2020).

Kickoff is Oct. 1 at 3:30 p.m. It will be televised on ABC.

Seminole Headlines

Limiting Hartman's impact

This is the fourth matchup between Hartman and the 'Noles, but just the second against head coach Mike Norvell and defensive coordinator Adam Fuller. 

In the 2021 matchup, Hartman threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns against the Seminoles. 

Wake Forest runs the slow mesh run-pass option (RPO), allowing Hartman time to read the defense and scan the field for receivers before deciding if he hands the ball off to his halfback or not. 

Florida State's linebackers and defensive backs must show discipline if the 'Noles hope to slow down Hartman, who is at 13 touchdowns to just two interceptions this season. 

In addition to patience at the second level, Florida State's defense could benefit from bringing pressure. Clemson's defense recorded three sacks and two quarterback hurries in its 51-45 double overtime win against Wake Forest on Sept. 24 

It's unclear if redshirt sophomore defensive end Jared Verse (three sacks) suits up, but his presence boosts the ceiling of the pass rush alongside redshirt sophomore defensive end Derrick McLendon II and redshirt junior defensive end Dennis Briggs Jr.

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Flexibility of the backfield 

Norvell has one of the deepest backfields in the country at his disposal with his running back trio of redshirt sophomores Treshuan Ward, Trey Benson and Lawrance Toafili. We've seen all three make significant plays up to this point, with each player having three rushing touchdowns. 

Ward leads with 54 attempts for 350 yards and Benson has maximized his touches with a team-high (players with 10 or more attempts) 7.2 yards per rush. For Toafili, he's scored touchdowns in two consecutive games.

Burning Questions

Is another strong start pivotal for the Seminoles?

Clawson mentioned Florida State's ability to get off to fast starts in his press conference on Sept. 27 and understands the repercussions of a slower start in Tallahassee.

"They're a fast starting team," Clawson said. "They've scored 55 points in the first quarter [and] so like a week ago, that we didn't start fast, we need to start fast. If not, these guys can jump out and you don't want to play these guys from behind."

For Clawson's full press conference, click here.

It might not be another opening kickoff return touchdown, but a productive first quarter could reap benefits for the Seminoles. The Demon Deacons have scored only 10 points in their last two first quarters. Due to its fast-paced offensive tempo, Wake Forest's defense is susceptible to being on the field for a longer period of time if Florida State controls the time of possession with sustained drives.

Can Florida State continue racking up big passing plays?

Against the Tigers, Wake Forest allowed 371 passing yards and five touchdowns from Clemson junior quarterback DJ Uiagalelei. It included completions of 39, 41, and 46 yards, which indicates an opportunity for long gains for Travis and his receivers. 

Through four games, the Seminoles have three receivers averaging 20+ yards per reception, including 20.9 yards per catch by their redshirt sophomore Johnny Wilson (13 receptions, 272 yards and two touchdowns).

Forecast

Although Wake Forest has won two consecutive meetings against Florida State, Clawson has never won in Tallahassee. The Seminoles keep it that way in a high-scoring affair between Hartman and Travis, where Florida State's defense produces a stop at the perfect time to capture the win.

Florida State 38, Wake Forest 34

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