The Seminoles hit the road to face the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.
With the season fast approaching, and College Football rolling full-steam ahead with current scheduling and formatting, fans are eager to hit the stands and cheer on their favorite team. 2021 is a year of much anticipation after the Coronavirus pandemic crippled schedules and limited capacity in stadiums. The Florida State Seminoles were one such program affected by the 2020 season. Several games were cancelled, rivalries were sidelined, and a new coaching staff was stalled in their ability to effectively recruit and implement their scheme.
Drama ensued, injuries took course, and opt-outs effectively hindered what amounts to a legitimate Year 0 in the Norvell era. Think of 2020 as a glorified practice run. Going 3-6 (out of 11 games), the year showed the mountain set before this staff and program in their CLIMB back to the top. Still, there were highlights and gradual improvement over the course of the season, and legitimate offseason hype as the ‘Noles are seemingly back-on-track.
The offseason is still in-effect across College Football, but with the recruiting dead period now over, a season in 2020 to evaluate personnel and conditions within the program, and a vision now to sell to the team, the fans, and recruits, it is fair to say that 2021 is Mike Norvell’s Year 1.
The training wheels are off, and for the Seminole faithful, it’s now time to preview our upcoming season’s opponents.
Game Three: Wake Forest
Head Coach: Dave Clawson (Head Coach record of 130 – 124 in Collegiate Football)
Mascot: Demon Deacons
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
2020 Record: 4-5
History vs Florida State: The lopsided affair between these Atlantic rivals dates back to the early years of Florida State football, with their first game taking place in 1958, a 27-24 Seminole victory in Tallahassee, FL. Since then, Florida State has taken the Demon Deacons to the woodshed on 30 occasions, with Wake Forest returning the favor on only seven occasions. That being said, Wake Forest victories over Florida State typically occur either in times of significant change, or speak to imminent changes within the direction of the program. Who could ever forget the 30-0 ass-beating the Seminoles took, at home, against the Demon Deacons in 2006? This started a losing streak against Wake that finally ended in 2009 in Bowden’s final season. Jimbo Fisher lost against Wake on the road in 2011, losing 30-35. The following seasons were historic runs in Seminole history, including three ACC Championships, one Heisman winner, and a National Championship in 2013. The latest loss, in 2019, was the point of no return in the short-lived Taggart era.
Mike Norvell has never lead the Seminoles against the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest. But his first opportunity will be a test in his time here in Tallahassee. A case could be made that this game could make-or-break the 2021 season, the fanbase perception of the program Norvell is installing, the 2022 recruiting class, and more. This could very well be another program defining moment for Norvell and co.
Demon Deacon Storylines to Follow:
Everyone Returns on Offense
Due to the nature of the 2020 season and the COVID-19 pandemic, programs nationwide have a one year extension on scholarships. In short: scholarship seasons did not count this past season, meaning, Seniors who would normally graduate after their final season didn’t have their scholarships count towards the 2020 season. This grants them, and all classes, a one-year extension if they opt to return. While there are grander ramifications on how this will affect program rosters nationwide (including recruiting classes), the immediate storyline regarding Wake Forest is that every starter from the 2020 season’s offense is returning for the 2021 season.
Wake Forest doesn’t have a reputation for pulling top-tier talent through recruiting. Therefore, the perception of the program has normally been that of coaches needing to out-perform their limited talent. Dave Clawson has done so at Wake, and could stand to capitalize this season with the volume of experienced talent returning. Sam Hartman (redshirt Junior) threw for 2,224 yards, 13 touchdowns, and only threw 5 interceptions in the 2020 season. The weaknesses for Wake Forest lie in the run game, with Sam Hartman going for -1 yards in 2020, hardly any production from their running backs, and an inconsistent offensive line, can the Demon Deacons avoid injuries and maintain some consistency by the time they face the Seminoles?
Again, returning production applies in the case of Wake Forest. However, that returning production allowed 37 points in five games this past season, with minimal pass rush and struggling on third down. With two of the best defensive players (Carlos Basham and Ja’Cquez Williams) taking their talents elsewhere after the 2020 season, the defense is now reliant on the remaining production to collectively take a step-up and remain healthy through the 2021 campaign. Even still, the talent on defense might not be on-hand for Wake Forest to form a cohesive unit capable of getting to the passer. This could spell disaster for Wake Forest, especially if their offense can be rendered one-dimensional by opposing defenses.
Setting the Tone In-Conference
Florida State’s first ACC game will be on the road against Wake Forest. The tone for the 2021 season is dependent on a Seminole victory. Likewise, Florida State is Wake Forest’s first ACC game of the season, and they get the ‘Noles at home. They should be coming off two wins against cupcakes Old Dominion and Norfolk State. Wake Forest needs a win against the ‘Noles to realistically keep their team in contention to earn their sixth bowl game invite. A healthy Wake Forest team, finding themselves facing two OOC opponents before the ‘Noles, could have momentum in their favor. There is pressure on both teams, and Wake will have the home advantage. A lot hinges on how both teams look heading into this week three matchup. The winner stands to swing momentum in their favor, while the loser likely throws away their shot at post-season reps.
The Seminoles will travel to Winston-Salem, NC and play in against the Demon Deacons on Saturday, September 18th, 2021 at 3:30 P.M. ET. The game will be broadcast on either ABC or ESPN.
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