Winston – Salem, NC (Sports Network) - The 23rd-ranked Florida State Seminoles Salem this weekend for ACC showdown with Wake Forest, 0 start to conference play in school history.
Good news is swirling in Tallahassee, as starting quarterback E.J. Manuel is expected back in the lineup this week after sitting out due to a shoulder injury suffered against Oklahoma in September. Florida State enjoyed a bye last weekend following a 35-30 loss at Clemson on September 24. Florida State has a favorable ACC stretch following this weekend's trip to Winston-Salem, meeting Duke, Maryland and NC State to close out the month of October.
"It's good to come off an off weekend, get a little rest, try to recharge the batteries. Hopefully, we're getting healthy," said Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher. "We're going to play a Wake team that I think is playing very good. They're 3-1, 2-0 in the league. I think they throw the ball exceptionally well on offense, make a lot of big plays and run it enough to keep you honest."
Wake Forest has started 2-0 in ACC play seven times before, but never 3-0. It already boast wins over NC State and Boston College, and has won three consecutive games since losing to Syracuse in overtime in the season opener. The Demon Deacons will host Virginia Tech following their date with the Seminoles, and will travel to Durham to face the Duke Blue Devils on October 22. Head coach Jim Grobe has his team playing with confidence and swagger heading into the league schedule.
"I think our guys know they can win, and I think they know that they have to play to win. They figured it out after the Syracuse game, and again after NC State and Boston College, that they have to make plays down the stretch if we are going to win," said Grobe. "I think we've grown up a lot."
Florida State leads the all-time series 23-5-1 with Wake Forest, including wins in seven of the last 10 contests.
Florida State's offense has been directed by freshman quarterback Clint Trickett since Manuel went down against the Sooners. Trickett has completed 38-of-61 passes for 646 yards and seven touchdowns in four games, and has also thrown two interceptions. Florida State is ranked 14th nationally in passing offense with 328 yards per game, and 58th in total offense with 407.5 yards per game. Trickett had 336 yards passing and three touchdowns against Clemson. Manuel completed 59-of-88 passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns against six interceptions before his injury, and the two top Seminole receivers have been Rodney Smith (16 catches, 289 yards and two touchdowns) and Rashad Green (14 catches, 294 yards, five touchdowns).
"I think when you talk about Florida State, the situation that they have at quarterback is a good situation to be in. (Clint) Trickett played great against Clemson and gave them a chance to win on the road in Death Valley, and we know (EJ) Manuel is a great quarterback," said Grobe. "They have two really great quarterbacks, so it might make it tough for them down the stretch to pick which one they are going to use."
Florida State ranks 115th nationally in rush offense with 79.5 yards rushing through four games.
The Seminoles' defense has been stellar against the run, ranking 12th nationally (82.5 yards allowed per game) and is sixth nationally in total defense (257 yards per game). Florida State is only giving up 17 points per game, although Clemson and Oklahoma combined for 58 points. Florida State averages 2.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss per contest, and are holding opponents to just a 34 percent conversion rate on third down (20-of-58). Mike Harris has been a notable performer, leading the team with 25 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss for a unit that has just four takeaways in four games.
Wake Forest is led offensively by quarterback Tanner Price, who threw for 252 yards with a touchdown and an interception is his most latest outing against Boston College last weekend. Price, despite leaving in the third quarter of the opener at Syracuse due to an injury, has thrown for 1,119 yards and seven touchdowns in four games, and has thrown just two interceptions.
"The thing that Tanner has learned is that you still have to be smart about your decisions," said Grobe. "Tanner is continuing to grow and learn, but so far we are really happy with what he has done."
Wake Forest averages 422.5 yards of total offense per game (314 passing, 198.5 rushing) and receiver Chris Givens ranks 25th nationally in receptions per game 6.7 per game, and is tied for seventh in receiving yards per game with 124.5 per game. Josh Harris leads the club with 276 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and needs just four yards to eclipse 1,000 for his career.
The Demon Deacons' defense will have its hands full with Manuel and company, but this is a unit that has been improving in three straight wins. Wake Forest ranks 20th nationally in total defense (299.5 yards per game), 26th in rushing defense (100 yards per game) and 36th in pass defense (199.5). The unit is allowing just 21.7 points per game, despite generating just 5.5 tackles for loss and posting just three sacks on the year. The Demon Deacons are also even in the turnover margin (four takeaways). Cyhl Quarles leads the team with 17 solo tackles and 17 assisted stops, with one fumble recovery.
"They've got a lot of playmakers defensively," said Fisher. " Playing a lot of different looks alot of blitz pressure. The corners are doing a good job, bringing a lot of pressure on alot of plays and not always just to get sacks, but to create run problems."