TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The matchup between North Carolina State and 12th-ranked Florida State features a stark contrast between quarterbacks.
The Wolfpack (2-1) have one of the more experienced signal-callers in Atlantic Coast Conference in Ryan Finley. The Seminoles (0-1) will have true freshman James Blackman making his first start after Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener.
Blackman played the final series against Alabama but did not attempt any passes. He has had a couple extra weeks to prepare after Hurricane Irma cancelled the Sept. 9 game against Louisiana-Monroe and moved the Miami game to Oct. 7.
There are some concerns if the 6-foot-5, 169-pound Blackman will be able to stand up physically to the competition, but coach Jimbo Fisher said he doesn’t have any doubts.
“This kid can run, play and be competitive,” Fisher said. “You play at Belle Glade, come out of that high school system, you’re a competitor. You’ve got some toughness to you.”
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said that his staff went back to Blackman’s film at Glades Central High School in South Florida. Doeren noted that Blackman has a good release and great arm strength.
“There’s not a ton of plays of him as a runner. You don’t know how much of that will be a factor in the game,” he said. “He was more of a passer. We’ll have to see and adjust as we go.”
Finley has not thrown an interception in 192 attempts, which is the longest current streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The junior — who is making his 20th collegiate start — leads the ACC in completion percentage (75.6) and is second in passing yards per game (329).
“He really gets it out quickly and finds matchups and really understands what he’s doing,” said Fisher of Finley. “You’ve got to affect him coverage-wise, blitz-wise, but then sometimes be able to rush without that.”
Some other things to know about Saturday’s North Carolina State-Florida State matchup:
BIG STAKES EARLY: Florida State has gone 77 games since dropping two straight, which leads the nation. It also has not started a season 0-2 since 1988. N.C. State has a 10-game losing streak against ranked teams and has not won a conference road game against a ranked team since 2008 at North Carolina (six games).
RESTED, BUT RUSTED? This is Florida State’s longest break between games in the regular season since 1982 (also 21 days). Fisher, who dealt with three schedule changes due to hurricanes when he was the offensive coordinator at LSU in 2005, said his players are a little anxious to play but has handled the break well.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Special teams. Florida State had a blocked field goal, blocked punt and fumbled kick return that led to 14 Alabama points. N.C. State’s kicking game has struggled. Division II graduate transfer Carson Wise won the starting job over Kyle Bambard — who made only half his field goals over the past two seasons — but has made just 1 of 3 attempts.
PRESSURE UP FRONT: North Carolina State’s defensive line has gotten plenty of attention with four senior starters that include Associated Press preseason All-America first-team pick Bradley Chubb. That group needs to have a big game Saturday to take FSU’s rookie quarterback out of sync. “It’s an advantage for us but we’ve got to go out there and execute that,” Chubb said. “We can’t just say we’ve got the advantage because we’re veterans and he’s a freshman.”
SECONDARY HELP: N.C. State is expected to have starting cornerback Mike Stevens for the first time this season. The senior played more snaps last year than any other returnee to the defense, but missed the first three games with a preseason knee injury.
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