Thursday NCAA Football Preview: Florida State at North Carolina
by Matt Severance - 10/20/2009
This Thursday's ESPN game between Florida State and North Carolina looked like a potential ACC title game preview before the season but now is just two schools looking to get out of the cellar of their respective divisions and perhaps looking forward to the start of basketball season.
Florida State, which is +2.5 on BetUS, is 2-4 for the first time since 1976 and 0-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time ever. The Seminoles' defense was thought to be a strength heading into the year, but it has been ravaged by opponents and injuries. The latest of the latter is that starting defensive tackle Budd Thacker (14 tackles, 10 solo, forced fumble in 2009) will not play this week after being diagnosed with a sprained MCL on Monday; the defensive line has just three sacks this year. In addition, linebacker Dekoda Watson may not play after missing practice early this week with a groin injury, and cornerback Patrick Robinson is questionable with an ankle issue but has been practicing.
Florida State ranks last in the ACC in total defense (426.7 yards per game), run defense (172.8) and pass defense (253.8). The Noles are 107th nationally in total defense and 90th in scoring defense (28.2 point per game) and are allowing more than 18 yards per pass completion -- the worst in the country.
FSU has been good on offense. QB Christian Ponder has thrown for 1,781 yards and nine touchdowns with just one pick; he is coming off a five-touchdown game against Georgia Tech, becoming the first FSU QB to throw five since 2001. The Seminoles lead the conference in total offense (426 yards per game), and Ponder leads the ACC in passing yards (296.8 ypg) and total offense (317.3 ypg).
Here's a unique trend to look for Thursday: When FSU scores on its first possession this season, it averages 44 points a game. When it doesn't, it averages 15 points.
North Carolina, which has two wins against I-AA teams this season, has been about the polar opposite of FSU - the Heels are pretty solid on defense but not good at all on offense, with an offensive line that has been injury-ravaged. UNC ranks last in the ACC in total offense (282.2 yard per game) and first in total defense (237.7). The Heels have only 56 rushing yards in their two conference games.
UNC defensive end Robert Quinn leads the ACC and is seventh in the country with 11 tackles for a loss of 69 yards, and is tied for first with three forced fumbles and also has four quarterback hurries. He's second in the ACC and seventh in the nation with seven sacks for 58 yards.
These two teams haven't met since 2004. But FSU leads all-time 14-1-1. This will be the first Thursday night home game in UNC history, while FSU is 0-4-1 ATS in its past five Thursday games.
As of this writing, approximately 53 percent of the public favors FSU. The line has moved only about a half-point since its opening.
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