TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — North Carolina State would normally be the worrisome trap game for third-ranked Florida State — the matchup nestled in between No. 9 Clemson and No. 7 Miami.
The Seminoles (6-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), however, have been here before.
The Wolfpack have won two of three games against Florida State since Jimbo Fisher took over the program, including a 17-16 upset in 2012 after Florida State rose to No. 3 in the nation. That loss immediately ended any Seminole national championship hopes.
N.C. State (3-3, 0-3) has also won the last four times it has squared off against a ranked Florida State team.
It all adds up to a focused group of Seminoles.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston said he spoke with last year’s quarterback EJ Manuel, who currently plays for the Buffalo Bills.
“EJ said, ‘man, don’t let that happen again,’” Winston said. “‘Get those boys straight.’
“I was like, ‘EJ, I got you.’ … We’re not even thinking about being let down.”
N.C. State’s primary objective will be to slow down another Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback.
The Wolfpack had some success getting pressure on Clemson QB Tajh Boyd in a 26-14 loss. Coach Dave Doeren hopes the Wolfpack can do that against Winston, while reducing the number of big plays down by limiting the Seminoles’ run after catch. Starting defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop should help after missing the last three games with an ankle injury.
“Obviously in order to get a quarterback out of rhythm, there’s a couple of things that have to happen,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. “There’s pressure that has to be applied, whether it’s mental pressure through different looks you can give or physical pressure by hitting him and hopefully sacking him, forcing either errant throws for incompletions or poor throws for interceptions.
“In order to be in the game with them we have to do that.”
Here are five things to watch when N.C. State takes on No. 3 Florida State today:
HEISMAN WATCH: Winston has fully entrenched himself in the Heisman Trophy race. He threw for 444 yards in front of a national audience last week against the then-No. 3 team in the country. Winston’s every move will be compared to Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. Winston has averaged 314.2 yards passing in his first six collegiate games with a 71.3 completion percentage. He thrown 20 touchdowns, run for three and has just three interceptions.
DOMINANT D: The Florida State defense has smothered its opponents in 2013. The Seminoles have allowed an average of 8 points per game outside of the 34 scored by Boston College. Maryland was ranked No. 25 when it went to Tallahassee, Fla. and was shut out. Clemson was No. 3 when it hosted the Seminoles and scored 14. The No. 2 pass defense in FBS is led by one of the top defensive backs in the country in Lamarcus Joyner.
MITCHELL’S BACK: The Wolfpack gets quarterback Brandon Mitchell back after he broke his foot in the season opener. Mitchell (6-foot-4, 239 pounds) transferred to N.C. State over the summer from Arkansas for his last year of eligibility. He played mostly receiver in 2012, made three starts and caught 17 passes for 272 yards. Mitchell will bring athleticism to the position and could add a little punch to the 10th-ranked offense in the ACC.
GROUND GAME: The Florida State offense has been dynamic, but the run game has diminished since the Seminoles ran for 266 yards against Bethune-Cookman. Starter Devonta Freeman has been more of a grinder the last two weeks and James Wilder Jr. has been slowed by a shoulder injury. The preseason Doak Walker award candidate won’t play Saturday after he suffered a concussion last week. That should mean more carries for Karlos Williams, who has seen fewer attempts the last two games. He ran for 193 yards with two touchdowns in his first two games after the switch from safety. N.C. State has the No. 53 run defense in the FBS, allowing 150 yards per game.
DADGUMIT: Bobby Bowden, the all-time leader in FBS wins, will return for a game at Doak Campbell Stadium for the first time since he retired in 2009. More than 300 former players are schedule to be in attendance. Bowden will take part in pregame ceremonies and plant the spear at midfield before kickoff.