Tallahassee, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The top-ranked Florida State Seminoles put the nation's longest win streak on the line when they play host to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in an ACC matchup at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The defending national champions have run their current win streak to a school-record 20 straight games. It certainly hasn't been easy of late, but back-to-back close calls against Clemson (23-17 OT) and NC State (56-41) have kept Jimbo Fisher's squad on course for another ACC crown and perhaps a shot at another national crown.
Dave Clawson's first season in Winston-Salem hasn't been a smooth ride by any stretch of the imagination. The Demon Deacons have alternated losses and wins since the season's start and enter this game after falling in their conference opener at Louisville last weekend, 20-10. The loss dropped Wake Forest to just 2-3 on the season.
Clawson knows the task at hand this week.
"We're going down and playing the defending national champions at their place," said Clawson." It's a tough environment, and more importantly it's a great football team. They're just not a team, they've built a program. They are loaded on both sides of the football. Offensively they have nine senior starters. Four of their five offensive linemen are projected to be first or second round draft picks. The quarterback is incredible. The throws he makes, he's very smart, the football goes where it should go. His ability to put touch on the ball, his ability to make plays, he's got courage, he doesn't look to duck out of bounds, he's probably closer to 250 (lbs) than the 230 that they have him listed at, he's an absolute load."
These two teams have met every year for the last 22 seasons. FSU holds a 25-6-1 series advantage, including a 16-3-1 mark in Tallahassee. The Seminoles have won the last two meetings by a combined score of 111-3.
Generating offense has been a real problem for Wake Forest this season, with the team ranking dead last in the country (125th) in rushing (29.2 ypg) and 123rd in total offense (230.2 ypg).
Freshman quarterback John Wolford has had to handle most of the work and his youth has been evident at times. He has completed 59.2 percent of his passes, for 1,005 yards. However, he has just six TD passes against a whopping 10 interceptions.
Tight end Cam Serigne (26 receptions, 265 yards, 1 TD) and wide receiver E.J. Scott (22 receptions, 239 yards, 4 TDs) are the top targets for Wake down the field.
The defensive play has been much better for Wake, which has allowed just 10 touchdowns on the season. Only four of those scores have come via the pass, as the Demon Deacons are allowing just 159.6 yards per game through the air.
Linebacker Brandon Chubb and safety Ryan Janvion have been extremely active, amassing 52 and 50 tackles, respectively. Defensive end Zach Allen (30 tackles) has been the team's best player up the field, with team-highs of 8.0 TFL and 3.0 sacks.
Florida State's offense isn't the juggernaut the team sported last year en route to the national championship, but the numbers are still strong and the team does turn it on when needed to earn wins. FSU currently puts up 38.2 ppg, with the preferred mode of travel being the pass (330.8 ypg).
Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston isn't on the torrid pace he put up in 2013, but is still dangerous, completing just under 70 percent of his passes, for 991 yards and seven TDs thus far.
It helps to have an All-American caliber receiver to look to downfield in senior Rashad Greene, who has 35 receptions, for 543 yards and three TDs already. Tight end Nick O'Leary (14 receptions, 156 yards, 1 TD) is a valuable asset as well.
The ground game has yet to really click for FSU, although tailback Karlos Williams (303 yards, 4.8 ypc, 5 TDs) could erupt at any time behind one of the nation's best offensive lines.
Fisher credits the play of the ground game and particularly Williams with the win at NC State.
"Karlos is getting better and better," Fisher said. "He ran the clock out at the end. That was another thing we did on offense too, we took that last drive and never gave them the ball back. We took the game away. That was extremely critical. He had a couple big runs and had three touchdowns on the night."
The FSU defense is even further off last year's mark than the offense. The Seminoles have been generous this season, allowing 25.2 ppg on just over 400 yards of offense per outing. With just five forced turnovers and six sacks through four games, a lack of big plays is evident.
There is still gifted playmakers at every level of the defense, including linebacker Terrance Smith (team-best 42 tackles), defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (12 tackles, 2.0 sacks) and defensive backs Jalen Ramsey (36 tackles. 4.0 TFL, 1 sack) and P.J. Williams (13 tackles, 1 FR).
Fisher is pleased that his team has been able to keep winning despite its lackluster play at times.
We're still not playing the football that we're capable of, which at times is frustrating, but is also very encouraging. We're finding ways to win games and we are getting better."