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Previewing the Opponent: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

WakeForest1

Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Record: 4-5 (2-4 ACC)
Head Coach: Jim Grobe
All-Time: FSU 24-6-1

Overview: Jim Grobe's Wake Forest teams almost always give Florida State a hard time of late. The Deacons have won four of the last seven in this series and two of the last three at home -- that includes a 35-30 win in 2011. 

“We’ve learned from our mistakes, but at the same time I remember that football team was very beat up," recalled Jimbo Fisher on Monday. "You talked about the EJ (Manuel) situation. You forget that was Bobby Hart’s first start ever. We had three or four guys on offense that were banged up, bruised and we had a very beat up team. From that we’ve learned.

"I think we’ve learned to get better and improve every game and take the importance (of) every game. That seems like a long time ago, we’ve evolved and hopefully we can learn and continue to evolve. Tomorrow and the next day you have to try and get better and better and get where we are trying to go.”

Wake Forest enters Saturday's game completely overmatched but more than capable of putting together 60 minutes of upset-worthy football. If FSU doesn't come out focused early they could be in trouble. And this week -- of all weeks -- that might not be too hard. The Seminoles are fresh off three high-emotion wins. Two over rivals that were unbeaten and in the top ten and one over an NC State team that embarrassed FSU last year. Add in Oregon's loss on Thursday night -- a loss FSU watched together -- and it would be easy to come out with the wrong mindset on Saturday afternoon. 

Wake can take advantage of that too.

How FSU Stacks Up: If Wake Forest wins it will be for two reasons, one will be that the Deacons played a near-perfect game -- they will need to come in with an air-tight game plan and they will need to execute it flawlessly -- and they will also need to catch Florida State flat-footed. 

Otherwise, forget it.

On the Wake defensive line Nikita Whitlock is a perfect example of the kind of guy this Demon Deacons team is built around. At 5'11 250, Wake's nose guard gets every last ounce out of his physical ability. 

“He’s is just a football-playing son-of-a-gun," said Fisher on Monday. "He’s a little short, but he’s powerful, athletic, can run, disruptive. In the seams, can pass rush, can play the run. They’re doing a good job on defense. They’ve only given up 19 points a game. They’re the number one red zone defense in the league. [They] create sacks, create different plays in the secondary and they do a very nice job.”

That's all well and good, but against a team with the kind of NFL-caliber athletes that Florida State has -- provided they play up to potential -- that's not likely to matter. FSU's offensive line has more or less man-handled every defensive front that's had to line up against it this year. An undersized one -- even one as tenacious as Wake's -- is probably going to wear down as this game grinds on. That could spell a big day for one of FSU's trio of backs. Last season Chris Thompson ripped off nearly 200 yards in the first half alone, that's probably not likely on the road but the Seminoles should still have a good day running the football.

On the other side of the ball Tanner Price is a capable quarterback but without his top receiver, Michael Campanaro -- who accounts for roughly half of the Deacons' entire passing attack -- this could be an uphill battle. FSU boasts a top five defense, including the nation's number two-rated secondary. They will likely look to take the run away early and force Price and his other receivers to beat them. 

Three Players to Watch:

Tanner Price, QB -- For Wake to win, Price needs to be nearly flawless.

Nikita Whitlock, DT -- An undersized player with a huge motor. He can impact a game at any time and FSU would be wise to know where he is at all times.

Josh Harris, RB -- Will need to have a productive day to take pressure off Price and the Wake passing attack.

Quote of the Week: “Our mindset is the same every week. We’re going to prepare the same. We’re going to practice the same and hopefully be better as the week goes on. It’s just going to be the same week for us.”

-Jameis Winston, QB

 

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