No. 12 Florida State Seminoles back in action for ACC opener vs. North Carolina State

By Danny Aller, The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 19, 2017 at 8:37 PM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- North Carolina State had better be prepared Saturday when it kicks off against No. 12 Florida State.

Because the Seminoles are ready to hit somebody.

Still fuming from a 24-7 season-opening loss to Alabama on Sept. 2 -- then seeing its next two games get washed out because of Hurricane Irma -- Florida State (0-1) enters Saturday's contest against the Wolfpack (2-1) having not played a game in three weeks.

"It's definitely the oddest start to season I've ever had. It's been tough on everyone," Florida State tight end Ryan Izzo said. "We're anxiously waiting to get out there against N.C. State."

The Seminoles were supposed to follow-up their season opener in Atlanta against the Crimson Tide with a home date against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 9, but that game was canceled when it became clear Hurricane Irma was a threat to Florida. And because of the ongoing recovery effort in Miami last week due to the storm, last Saturday's game against the Hurricanes was moved to Oct. 7.

That left N.C. State as Florida State's next opponent on the schedule, and history -- recent or otherwise -- is on the Seminoles' side. Florida State, which enters the game as a 12-point favorite, has won the last four meetings, including 24-20 last year in Raleigh, N.C. The Seminoles also have a big edge in the all-time series at 26-11.

But does all that time off mean the Seminoles could come out rusty -- rather than enraged? Perhaps, said star Wolfpack H-back Jaylen Samuels.

"I don't know if it's a good thing or bad thing," Samuels told the Charlotte (N.C.) News Observer when asked about FSU's long layoff. "I don't know if they're going to come out rusty or if they're going to come out fresh."

Fresh or not, the big question for Florida State is at quarterback. Starter Deondre Francois was lost for the season in the opener because of a knee injury. True freshman James Blackman will make his first start Saturday.

"(He's) determined. Very focused. That's about the best way I can (describe it)," Fisher said of Blackman's progression. "He grinds. He pushes. He asks questions. He likes to be coached. I like how he's going; we'll just have to wait and see how he plays and hope things go well."

The Wolfpack dropped their opener to South Carolina 35-28 but have won two games in a row against Marshall and FCS opponent Furman.

Samuels already has five touchdowns -- three rushing, two receiving -- and he has drawn the attention of Florida State star defensive back Derwin James. The two are likely to match up all afternoon Saturday.

James said he respects Samuels' ability, adding he sees an "offensive version" of himself in Samuels, who had 15 receptions in the season-opener.

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher agreed Monday when asked if that comparison was accurate.

"That's a great analogy. It really is. That why you like Derwin so much as a player and why he's so good because he can recognize other people who see the game," Fisher said.

"Because to do the things that Samuels does, it's not only great physical skills there, there's great mental skills, great intelligence to be able to play two different positions, understand how to play them and play them so effectively. Samuels ... the guy's a football player. He can do anything."

North Carolina State quarterback Ryan Finley has thrown 192 consecutive passes without an interception. That's the longest active streak in the nation and the eighth-longest mark in ACC history. The Wolfpack's offense also was boosted last week by the return of starting right tackle Will Richardson after a two-game suspension.

Beyond James, there are ample potential high draft picks in this game. James is rated the third-best prospect for 2018 by NFLDraftScout.com, while Wolfpack defensive end Bradley Chubb is 11th and FSU cornerback Tarvarus McFadden is 12th.

Florida State's 21-day stretch between games is tied for the third-longest layoff between regular-season games in the same season in program history.

In 1980, the Seminoles had 28 days between a Nov. 8 game against Virginia Tech and a Dec. 6 game against Florida. In the program's first season of 1947, the Seminoles played their opener on Oct. 18 against Stetson and the second game of the season 27 days later on Nov. 14 at Cumberland.

The 1983 team also had a 21-day break, hosting Miami on Nov. 12 before concluding the regular season at Florida on Dec. 3.

"I feel like any time you take the field at home, it's something," James said. "So even though it's been a month, I feel like we're going to get that same feeling like it was that first week or second week."

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