Wake Forest and Florida State are in very different positions heading into Saturday's meeting to open Atlantic Coast Conference play.
The Demon Deacons (2-0) didn’t face much of a test in either of its first two wins against overmatched opponents, offering little insight as to how they will respond in a close game. Yet that’s far better than what faces the Seminoles (0-2), who are just trying to win a game after last weekend’s stunning loss to a lower-division opponent.
“We’ve got to go out there and play at an extremely high level,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “We cannot have the lapses, we can’t put ourselves in challenging situations because against well-coached football teams, teams that have those type of playmakers, you’ll get exposed.”
The loss on a final-play touchdown to Jacksonville State already did that. A week after taking highly ranked Notre Dame to overtime, the Seminoles lost for the first time in 27 matchups against Championship Subdivision teams, this one to an opponent that had lost 31-0 to UAB in its opener.
Now FSU is facing the possibility of the program’s first 0-3 start since the late Bobby Bowden’s first season in 1976. It comes as the Seminoles begin a 30th season of play in a league it used to dominate.
Those memories are why Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said that he still considers FSU “one of the iconic brands of college football.”
“In my mind,” he said, “Florida State is still Florida State.”
By comparison, the Demon Deacons have been able to ease into Clawson’s eighth season.
The Demon Deacons opened with a 42-10 win against an Old Dominion team that hadn’t played a game in more than 640 days after the school had canceled all fall sports last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then came a 41-16 home win against Norfolk State, an FCS program from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Those one-sided outcomes allowed the Demon Deacons to dip into their bench to play a lot of reserves in an effort to build depth.
“They’ve had two four-quarter games. We haven’t,” Clawson said.
“We’ve been trying to prepare our team for that, not by playing 80 snaps but by rotating guys. … I hope we’re better prepared to play a four-quarter game because of the depth.”
Some other things to know about Saturday’s FSU-Wake Forest game:
The Seminoles rank 121st out of 130 Bowl Subdivision teams in penalty yards per game after being flagged nine times for 54 yards against the Fighting Irish, followed by 11 penalties for 114 yards against the Gamecocks.
Wake Forest receiver Jaquarii Roberson has caught a TD pass in six consecutive games, tied for the second-longest streak in program history. Roberson is two games shy of matching the record set by Sage Surratt in 2019.
The teams were scheduled to meet in the regular-season finale in Winston-Salem last year on Dec. 19. But the game was canceled a day before kickoff due to COVID-19 issues for the Seminoles.
“I just tried to delete it from my memory to be honest,” Wake Forest offensive lineman Sean Maginn said. “Yeah, no hard feelings with Florida State. I mean that did suck. It was the day before, we were
Wake Forest beat Florida State 22-20 in 2019 to snap an eight-game skid in the annual series between league Atlantic Division opponents. The Seminoles have a 30-7-1 series record against the Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest is closing a three-game homestand and beginning a stretch of four straight ACC games by facing FSU, followed by its first road game at Virginia. The Seminoles are starting a stretch of three straight against Atlantic Division foes, with the next two against Louisville and Syracuse at home.
AP freelancer Bob Ferrante in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.
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