Florida State Seminoles (2-4, 1-4 ATS) at North Carolina Tarheels (4-2, 1-3 ATS) Kenan Stadium Chapel Hill, N.C Thursday October 22nd, 8:00PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Florida State +2/North Carolina -2
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At the beginning of the year, ESPN may have had this Thursday night’s game between the Florida State Seminoles and North Carolina Tarheels marked as one of the more anticipated match-ups of the year. After all Florida State was suppose to make their climb back towards contending for the ACC Title and North Carolina was expected to do the same down in Chapel Hill. However we are now midway through the season and neither one of these two teams has yet to score a conference victory.
The game that was featured to be a match-up between two of the top teams in the ACC, will now be featured as two of the bottom dwellers this Thursday night. The Seminoles program has taken a turn for the worse and many expect this will be Coach Bobby Bowden’s last year. However, Bowden has not given in to the criticism and insist the Seminoles will get things turned around. Well if that is true time is running out and Florida State must get things started against the Tarheels on the road this weekend so Bowden’s promise is to be validated.
North Carolina’s first loss of the season may have been expected in a 24-7 loss against Georgia Tech, but a loss a week later to Virginia 16-3 made it obvious that the Tarheels were not perhaps as good as they had hoped. The Tarheels own a winning 4-2 mark on the season, but they have yet to knock off a quality team. North Carolina is in a very similar situation to Florida State and the pressure is building for a big win. If that is to happen this Thursday night, Tarheels QB T.J. Yates will need to step up. Yates has struggled this season throwing 7 interceptions to just 6 touchdowns. Yates is completing just 60% on the year with only 964 yards through 6 games. While the numbers have not been impressive, Yates will have his opportunity to shine on the big stage against a Florida State secondary that has been flat horrible this season.
The Tarheels have found more success on the ground this season than the air in tailbacks Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston. Draughn gets the most carries as he is the bigger big play threat for the rushing attack. Houston is a big powerful runner at 245 pounds and is a very effective force in short yardage situations. Houston will also be featured around the goal line and he is no stranger to the end zone with 7 scores already this season. However, as mentioned before the Tarheels will throw the ball more in this game or at least they should. Florida State has given up 253 yards per game through the air which is by far the worse in the ACC and ranks outside the top 100 in the country to emphasize how horrible the pass defense has been.
The Seminoles defense is the biggest reason they have experienced the hardship this season. Outside of the poor pass defense, the rest of the defense has been just as bad. The Seminoles are allowing 172 yards per game on the ground and allowing 28.2 points per game. The defensive struggles run parallel to their ACC record of 0-3. The defense has given up 38 points on average in their first 3 conference games and if a team gives up that many points then the wins are going to be minimal despite how good or bad the offense performs.
The Florida State offense on the other hand has not played bad at all. The Seminoles were the number 1 scoring offense in the ACC last season and they are averaging 30 points per game again this season. The Seminoles lead the ACC with 424 yards per game led by QB Christian Ponder. Ponder has performed brilliantly throwing for 1,781 yards to lead the conference. Ponder has thrown 9 touchdowns and only 1 interception on the year and remains the biggest bright spot on a team that has seen mostly darkness. Wide receivers Richard Goodman and Bert Reed are the most consistent targets on the field. Goodman is the veteran of the group and has caught 27 passes for 355 yards this season. Reed leads the team with 28 catches for 364 yards as well.
Ponder is destined to make plays in this game as he continues to play well, but it will be much more difficult. The Tarheels actually lead the nation in pass defense allowing just 125 yards per game through the air. North Carolina has not played any quarterback that is playing as well as Ponder this season, but they stick to their assignments well and force turnovers. It will be very interesting to see if Ponder can pick apart this talented secondary, and to see if the Florida State defense can step up to play better.
Jay’s Pick – Expect less scoring and consider a play on the under.