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Florida State at N.C. State

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Editor's Note: Christian Alexander is locked and loaded with a total play on tonight's ACC matchup. Click to win!

Date: Thursday, October 28
Matchup: #16 Florida State (6-1, 4-0 ACC) at N.C. State (5-2, 2-1 ACC)
TV: 7:30 PM ESPN
Venue: Carter-Finley Stadium (Natural Grass)
Sports.com Line: Florida State -3.5 O/U 57.5

While it was quite a coup to get the #1 team in the nation – the Oregon Ducks – on Thursday night last week, the game itself turned out to be a real stinker. Flexing their muscles a bit, Oregon thrashed UCLA by a score of 60-13, easily covering the 25 point spread.

While we don’t have the top ranked team again this week, this Thursday does involve a top 20 team and promises to be quite competitive.

To fans of Thursday night college football, the matchup of Florida State and N.C. State is quite a familiar one. In fact, this will be the fourth consecutive time that Florida State has traveled to Raleigh, N.C. to play the Wolfpack in the ESPN Thursday night game of the week. FSU in particular is a regular and this will be their 11th Thursday night game on ESPN. The Seminoles are 6-4 overall in those games and 3-1 against N.C. State.

This series got a real spark in 2000 when FSU assistant head coach Chuck Amato returned to his alma mater to become the head coach of the Wolfpack. From that point on it was year in and year out one of the best matchups in the ACC with six of the last nine games being decided by a touchdown or less. N.C. State’s five wins against FSU ties the school with Clemson for the most wins against Florida State in the ACC.

The vibe has changed a bit since Amato was fired following the 2006 season but even though FSU has won all three since against coach Tom O'Brien, the games have been quite entertaining and often competitive.

Last year was a perfect example of that as the two teams met on Halloween in Tallahassee. When the dust settled, FSU escaped with a 45-42 win thanks to WR Bert Reed's 3-yard touchdown run with 1:36 left.

For the ‘Noles to again get the best of N.C. State, the visitor will need to bring their offensive firepower. That might not be as easy as FSU fans would like considering that QB Christian Ponder is nursing an elbow injury (ruptured bursa sac).

In 2009, Ponder passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns in the win against the Wolfpack but then missed the final four games of the season with a shoulder injury . So far in 2010, Ponder hasn’t been quite as sharp as he was last year but there is little doubt that he is the engine which drives the FSU offense. Ponder has thrown for 1,187 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing 60.4 percent of his passes. The FSU QB has plenty of help from a running game which ranks 19th in the nation.

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Even though he has been limited in practice this week, all indications point to Ponder playing against the Wolfpack. Assuming that happens, we’re set to watch two of the best quarterbacks the ACC has to offer.

The other is Russell Wilson who has already made an appearance on Thursday night this season (Sept. 16) when NCSU took care of Cincinnati by a score of 30-19. Wilson, who is generally regarded as the top QB in the ACC, directs a Wolfpack offense that leads the league in passing offense, scoring offense (36 ppg) and total offense (449 ypg). Coach O'Brien’s signal caller is tops in the ACC with 303.4 passing yards per game and 18 touchdowns.

Wilson has a huge challenge awaiting him as he tries to keep that level of production going. Florida State has the top scoring defense in the ACC at 16.1 points per game which is good for 13th in the nation. A big part of that defense is getting pressure on the QB and Florida State does it very well as they lead the nation in sacks. Wilson is a mobile QB and how he responds to the FSU will be a key in this game.

Under first-year coach Jimbo Fisher, the Seminoles are 4-0 in the ACC for the 10th time since they joined the ACC in 1992. Each of those 10 times FSU has gone on to win or share the ACC football title but it worth noting the program has not been to the ACC championship game since 2005

Florida State leads the overall series with North Carolina State 21-9 while both teams are 4-2 against the spread.

  
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