North Carolina State
It took awhile, but Florida State returns to the field this weekend to take on NC State. And with a new quarterback under center, not many know what to make of this team just yet with its only Game coming at the hands of Alabama. With ACC play getting underway, the Seminoles have to work in their new quarterback in just their second Game of the season. That said, the ‘Noles were still -11 point favorites (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) for this one against the Wolfpack.
True freshman James Blackman is the reason everyone will tune into this Game, or at least the main reason. With Deondre Francois out for the season, Blackman steps in as FSU’s quarterback, a spot no one envisioned him in a few months ago. Blackman may have the speed element and ability, but he’s a guy that won’t be able to take many hits due to size alone. If the FSU offensive line continues to have problems, Blackman will need to escape the heavy hits. And while teammates have said that Blackman is “wowing” at practice, that doesn’t mean it will translate to the Game. The question is whether you trust a true freshman under center as a double-digit favorite.
NC State was expected to have a better season compared to last, but after losing to South Carolina in the opener, those expectations went down the drain. While beating Marshall and Furman is great, the Wolfpack remain a work in progress. That said, the loss to the Gamecocks was a bit fluky as NC State actually outgained its opponent by more than 250 total yards. A couple recovered fumbles and a kickoff return led to a 35-28 win for South Carolina. If the Wolfpack can hang onto the ball, this Game could be a lot more interesting than people think it will be.
While Blackman brings inexperience on the other side of the field, quarterback Ryan Finley brings two years at Boise State and a full 2016 season to this offense. It was only a year ago that NC State was winning this matchup 20-10 late in the third quarter before FSU put together two long touchdown drives. Without Francois, those drives may not be possible.
In that Game, Finley threw for 300 yards, while the Wolfpack ran for 165 yards as a team on 4.0 yards per carry. The FSU defense is expected to be better, but Finley also appears better for NC State, completing 75.6% of his passes through the first three Games. This will of course be his hardest test, but there’s no reason Finley and running back Nyheim Hines can’t keep their team within striking distance.
Blackman has a lot on his shoulders, but the Seminoles will likely take a run-first approach between Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick. But behind a questionable offensive line, there’s no guarantee that running on every down will work, especially after NC State held South Carolina to 1.5 yards per carry. Blackman will have to show his stuff in this Game, otherwise, it will end up being too close for comfort for Florida State fans. The Seminoles have the better team, but with Blackman at quarterback, they have a big unknown and that may be the difference in deciding which team covers this Game.
Our Pick – This was a 4 point Game a year ago and both teams return a bunch of familiar faces on both sides of the ball. This NC State team also lost to Clemson last year by just a TD. Bottom line, NC State should be able to hang with anyone this year and they get to go against a “rookie” QB to boot. NC State +12