Finally, a week where this column isn’t going to predict Florida State’s first win of the season. The ‘Noles jumped that hurdle last Saturday with a 33-30 home win against Syracuse.
This week, they travel to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina. A team that many would say is superior in most, if not all, facets of the game. In fact, the Tar Heels are favored by 17.5 points, and it doesn’t seem like anyone is giving the one win ‘Noles a fighting chance. This is all eerily similar to last season, where Florida State took down the then #5 ranked Tar Heels in Doak Campbell Stadium.
If the Seminoles have done it once before, why can’t they do it again against an even worse North Carolina roster?
1. Jashaun Corbin and Treshaun Ward combine for 250+ all-purpose yards and 2+ touchdowns.
This North Carolina team hasn’t been particularly bad against the run, but they haven’t been good either. I expect this to be where Florida State feasts, as the Tar Heels come into the matchup ranking 71st nationally in rush yards per game. And this running back tandem that Florida State possesses is unlike anything they’ve seen so far. Corbin and Ward rank No. 1 and 2 in the ACC in yards per carry, which puts them at No. 9 and 12 in the entire nation.
The Tar Heels have struggled greatly against the zone read this year, which was evident in the Georgia Tech blowout that saw Jeff Sims run for 128 yards and 3 touchdowns. With Jordan Travis at the helm of the offense, Florida State will run a lot of zone read. Assuming North Carolina doesn’t want another Jeff Sims performance to happen, they will focus in on Travis. Giving Corbin and Ward free reign on the ground in a scheme where the Florida State coaching staff creates amazing angles in the run game.
2. Florida State’s defense has 4 or more sacks.
It is fairly evident that the ‘Noles defensive line is the strong point of the defense. They come into this week’s matchup with 14 sacks to show for the season, which is tied for 8th most in the country. And they’ll be facing an offense that has allowed 22 sacks already this season, which ranks 127th out of 130 teams.
Sam Howell is a name we know in Tallahassee. The former FSU commit blossomed in his first two years with the Tar Heels and was a Heisman favorite coming into this season. However, this season, his eyes tend to look down more than they ever have. Something that Seminole fans know from experience is that being a quarterback behind one of the worst offensive lines in football is a tough ask. Being under pressure repeatedly can hurt your internal clock and you can fall under some pressure, even when it isn’t there. This is something that Howell has done a lot over the past few weeks.
If Florida State can get him on the ground early, it could throw off his entire game. And led by ACC sack leader, Jermaine Johnson, I expect the ‘Noles to do that early and often. Making Howell struggle in the contest against an overmatched Florida State secondary.
3. Florida State pulls off the upset.
Like I said before, not many people are even giving the ‘Noles a chance this week. But maybe that is just what Florida State needs. They’ve been favored in 3 of their 5 contests this season and have just a 1-4 record to show for it. Being an underdog away from home could give them that “nothing to lose” mindset that they need to pull of a victory like this one.
They did it a season ago. They can surely do it again. We know Mack Brown struggles against his Alma Mater, we will see if that catches up with him again this week. If things bode well for the ‘Noles, we will be looking right in the face of Mike Norvell’s first away win as head coach of Florida State.
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