Winston-Salem, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The third-ranked Florida State Seminoles continue their quest for a second straight ACC crown, as they take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons this weekend in Winston-Salem.
The Seminoles are coming off another dominant performance against a top 10 foe, as they routed then seventh-ranked Miami-Florida last weekend in Tallahassee, 41-14. The win was the eighth straight in 2013 and the 12th straight ACC victory dating back to last season. At 6-0 in league play, FSU sits atop the Atlantic Division standings and can clinch the division crown and a spot in the ACC Championship Game with a win here.
Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons are coming off a shutout loss to Syracuse last weekend, 13-0. The setback dropped Wake Forest to just 4-5 overall and a dismal 2-4 in league play. Wake Forest will be idle next week prior to the conference finale against Duke on Nov 23.
Grobe recognizes the task at hand.
"They're the best team we've played so far. I thought we played really poorly at Clemson. I thought we played really good at Miami on the road. I think Miami is a pretty good football team. Obviously Florida State is better, but we need another great effort - the same type of effort we've had the past few weeks. I really felt like at Syracuse our effort was really good. We just didn't play well enough on the offensive side of the ball to win so we need another great effort to have a chance."
Florida State holds a 24-6-1 series advantage and won last year's meeting in a 52-0 blowout.
No team has been able to slow down the FSU offense this season, including Miami last week, as the Seminoles rolled up 517 yards in the lopsided win. The team currently ranks third nationally at 51.1 ppg, while placing fourth in total offense (549.1 ypg), thanks to great balance between the run (209.8 ypg) and the pass (339.4 ypg).
Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston is the primary reason for the offensive success. The youngster has played more like a savvy veteran and as a result is in the talk regarding Heisman favorites. Winston has completed 70.3 percent of his passes on the year, for 2,502 yards, with 24 touchdowns against six interceptions. He struggled early on against Miami, but rebounded in the second half and used the adversity as a learning experience.
"I learned that I've got to keep my composure. I've got to keep playing and that I have an amazing team. They pulled us out of the dumps, they pulled me out of the dumps, they had my back. They told me `Hey Jameis, be you.' I was so proud."
Of course Winston benefits from one of the nation's best offensive lines in front of him and unmatched depth at both the running back and receiver positions.
Against Miami, it was tailback Devonta Freeman that led the way, scoring three touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving. Freeman leads the team in rushing this season with 639 yards and eight TDs. Both Karlos Williams (8.1 ypc, seven TDs) and James Wilder Jr (5.4 ypc, four TDs) can move the chains on the ground as well.
The receiving corps has a budding star in Rashad Greene (45 receptions, 773 yards, eight TDs), with Kenny Shaw (34 catches, 618 yards, three TDs), Kelvin Benjamin (25 catches, 476 yards, five TDs) and Nick O'Leary (20 catches, 353 yards, six TDs) proving to be reliable targets as well.
The FSU defense has been equally impressive in 2013, ranking fourth nationally in scoring defense (13.1 ppg), second in pass defense (158.5 ypg) and seventh in total defense (287.6 ypg).
The unit is paced by a pair of All-American candidates in linebacker Telvin Smith and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. Smith is all over the field and leads the team in tackles (53), with 6.0 TFL, one sack, one interception and one fumble recovery. Joyner is a big time playmaker, posting 43 tackles, 4.5 TFL, three sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles.
Wake Forest has been an inconsistent squad in terms of offense. The team is averaging a modest 19.4 ppg on the year, on just 312.1 total yards.
The Demon Deacons do not possess the kind of offensive talent that Florida State does, and the one all-conference caliber threat on the roster, wide receiver Michael Campanaro (67 catches, 803 yards, six TDs), was injured in last week's shutout loss to the Orange and is sidelined indefinitely (shoulder). His absence will definitely hurt QB Tanner Price's production going forward.
Price has completed 56.2 percent of his passes on the year, for 1,951 yards, with 12 TDs against five INTs. Campanaro received most of the attention down the field, as no other receiver on the team has more than 15 catches.
Adding to the problem for Wake is a struggling ground attack that generates just 88.0 ypg. Josh Harris is the top player in the backfield, but he has just 302 yards on the season (33.6 ypg).
Wake Forest's defense has done its best to keep the team in most games, allowing just 19.9 ppg and holding foes to 368.6 yards of total offense. Opponents have cashed in 72 percent of the time in the red zone, including 15 touchdowns.
There isn't a whole lot of star power on the defensive side of the ball for Wake outside of nose tackle Nikita Whitlock (60 tackles). Although undersized for the middle, Whitlock plays much bigger and leads the team in both TFL (14.0) and sacks (7.0). He has also recorded two forced fumbles and has blocked two kicks this season.