RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher doesn’t figure the No. 19 Seminoles will have an easy time at North Carolina State on Saturday night.
The Seminoles (5-3, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) have lost three of five meetings in Raleigh, including one four years ago while carrying a No. 3 national ranking. Even the wins haven’t been easy, with Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and the then-No. 1 Seminoles having to rally from 17 down in a 56-41 shootout in their last visit here in 2014.
“They like playing us,” Fisher said of FSU’s troubles in Raleigh.
The season hasn’t gone as expected for FSU, which was ranked No. 4 in the preseason AP Top 25 but lost in a rout at Louisville then at home to North Carolina on a last-play field goal. Last week, the Seminoles lost a tight contest with No. 3 Clemson, effectively taking them out of the Atlantic Division race.
Now FSU is playing for bowl eligibility against the Wolfpack (4-4, 1-3).
“We’re trying to control where we are and be where our feet are,” tailback Dalvin Cook said. “I love this group of guys. One of the best groups I’ve been around and we have to seize the moment. I think we do a good job coming back and assessing things. Guys are embracing it.”
The Seminoles face a team desperately trying to find its footing after three straight losses. N.C. State has looked lost ever since missing a short field goal that would’ve beaten Clemson at the end of regulation in what became an overtime loss . The Wolfpack followed with a blowout loss at Louisville, then lost at home last week to a Boston College team that had lost 12 straight ACC games.
“We’ve just got to get our confidence back,” Wolfpack running back Matt Dayes said. “I feel like the guys lost their confidence. But you know each day we’re getting it back every day. So we’re moving in the right direction right now. We’ll be fine this week.”
Some other things to know about Saturday’s Florida State-N.C. State game:
TURNOVER MARGIN: The Seminoles lead the ACC with a plus-seven turnover margin and have forced a turnover in nine straight games dating back to last season. They’re facing a team that has committed eight turnovers in its current three-game skid. If that trend continues, the Seminoles could be in for a big night.
COOK CLOSE TO MARK: Cook leads all power-conference backs in rushing yards (1,069). He needs 193 yards to break Warrick Dunn’s career record of 3,959 yards. Cook ran for 138 yards with two touchdowns in last year’s meeting.
KEEPING FRANCOIS UPRIGHT: Deondre Francois leads freshman quarterbacks in average passing yards (270.2) but has been sacked 23 times, including six last week against Clemson. Fisher has called Francois one of the toughest quarterbacks he had but the amount of hits he takes is becoming a concern.
RUNNING IN PLACE: Dayes is the league’s No. 3 rusher at about 91 yards per game, but the Wolfpack’s ground game has struggled with a combined 45 yards against Louisville and Boston College. N.C. State must get Dayes going early. “I think we’ve just got to hit some and get our confidence back up going with it,” center Joe Scelfo said. “We can’t have these past few games with this rushing attack. It’s not going to cut it.”
SAMUELS’ TOUCHES: Somehow, North Carolina State’s do-everything all-ACC threat Jaylen Samuels had one offensive touch for 8 yards against BC. Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said some of the plays were designed to get him the ball only to see the defense take him away. “Obviously he’s one of the best players in the conference and we can’t allow the defense to take him away,” offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz said. “We have to do a better job, I have to do a better job, of making sure he gets the football. That responsibility falls on me.”
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