Here are five things to watch for when Florida State invades Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest today at noon.
1.) Paging Florida State
This has been one of the most clutter-filled weeks of the entire Jimbo Fisher era. In fact it's been a cluttered last few weeks. Starting with a major road trip to Clemson to play in a top five matchup -- one that came complete with ESPN All-Access and College Gameday -- Florida State then proceeded to play a revenge game against NC State before essentially repeating Clemson week again in Tallahassee last weekend (complete, once again, with a visit from ESPN) when the Hurricanes came calling.
That's two top ten matchups against rivals and an emotional game against a team that embarrassed the Seminoles last year all in the course of 21 days. They've been second in the BCS, then third, then second. On Thursday they flew to Winston-Salem a day early and then watched Oregon fall to Stanford -- all but insuring a spot in the title game should FSU just win out.
That's a lot of clutter. A ton of clutter. This week could be the hardest Jimbo Fisher has really had to coach this team all year. If they come out flat, they could be in trouble. But if they come out with the same fire they've played with all year, then Pasadena will look a little more likely by the end of the contest.
2.) How Amped is Jameis Winston?
Last week Jameis Winston had his first human moments as the quarterback of Florida State. Two first half interceptions set Miami up with 14 points and forced Winston to embrace the checkdown in the second half. Granted he was 12-14 for 164 yards in that second half, but you can be sure that Winston will look to get back to his usual vertical passing self today.
If Winston isn't too amped early on, he'll be fine. Fisher even admitted on Monday that one of Winston's picks was actually read correctly and thrown well, Nick O'Leary just didn't get his head around on it quickly enough. As long as Winston keeps his cool -- something he has done pretty much all season -- he could have a good passing day. If he's a bit too eager to air it out today though, he could give an opportunistic Wake defense some life.
3.) Nate Andrews
Nate Andrews has effectively become Terrence Brooks' protege as Brooks told us about a month ago: “It’s kind of weird to tell you the truth, I mean to see him out at practice you definitely see spurts of him just making amazing plays, diving catches, all kinds of stuff like that and I mean for the most part I try to take him under my wing just because I kind of see myself in him with that.”
Today Andrews will replace his mentor as one of the starting safeties in the FSU secondary. Brooks is still out following the effects of a concussion he suffered late against Miami and Andrews will spell him today against Wake.
"I feel like if he just believes in his abilities and really goes out there and just be comfortable - because I tell him that all the time - sometimes he goes into the game, he’s a little bit frantic but I make sure I grab him during the game like, ‘hey calm down, you’re good, you’re a good player, you can do this, calm down,’" said Brooks. "But I feel like he’s going to be really good, I know that’s somebody that you’ve got to watch out for because I promise you he’s going to be a good player. He likes to hit, he can cover well, very instinctive, I feel like he’s going to be really good.”
4.) Devonta Freeman's Quest for 1,000
The odds on Devonta Freeman being the first Florida State back to hit 1,000 yards since Warrick Dunn have gone up a little bit lately. Freeman has 639 yards through eight games. He can hit the mark in the regular season if he averages just a hair over 90 yards per game the rest of the way -- but a big game today against Wake would really propel him towards 1,000. Last year Chris Thompson destroyed Wake for nearly 200 yards in the first half. This year Florida State's line is a year older, a year nastier and Freeman is running the best he has since arriving in Tallahassee three years ago.
Right now the biggest threat to Freeman's success is actually his own teammate. Karlos Williams' ability to run is undeniable at this point. The fact Freeman is a more complete back is what keeps him on the field.
"He’s just a good back. He plays hard, he knows what he’s doing and he’s just smart," said LT Cam Erving. "He always knows where he needs to be, where he needs to hit the hole. Just a lot of intangibles, things people don’t see. Hard working. Just so persistent, he always gives credit where it’s due. After every touchdown, he’s thanking us, thanking God for everything.”
It's hard not to root for a kid like Freeman.
5.) Can FSU Stay Healthy?
One of the only things that could really throw a wrench in FSU's BCS plans -- short of UF figuring out how to run an offense by Thanksgiving -- would be a major injury. This time ten days ago, FSU's fans were a little unsure about their starters making an early exit. FSU's defense never took the field in the second half against NC State and many wondered whether the Seminoles could afford to forfeit the style points that would have come with playing them well into the second half.
After the NC State game Fisher even said he refused to embarrass the game of football by trying to run up a score. Two weeks later that still looks classy, and now the whole complexion of the discussion has changed. Fans should be begging Fisher to pull the starters as soon as they get a comfortable margin. FSU needs to stay healthy and the sooner they can get the reserves some playing time the better off they'll be.
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