TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State and Wake Forest are desperate for a win with both coming off bye weeks and begin the second half of the season.
The Seminoles and Demon Deacons face off on Saturday in an ACC Atlantic Division matchup of programs that are looking to get back on track after shaky starts.
Wake Forest (3-3, 0-2 ACC) has allowed 46 points in its last four games, fired its defensive coordinator and then was helpless in a 63-3 loss to Clemson. Florida State (3-3, 1-3) has had growing pains in Willie Taggart's first year as coach, losing by 23 points at Syracuse and allowed a 20-point, second-half lead slip away at Miami.
"We have half of a season left and there are still a lot of goals that we can accomplish," Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. "Our focus is on our process and getting better. I've had seasons that we start well and don't finish well and seasons you don't start out well and finish right.
"I'm very optimistic with this football team that we can find a way to put it together and find a way to get some wins."
Wake Forest has built one of the nation's top rushing attacks behind 215-pound junior Cade Carney, who has 446 rushing yards and four TDs. He averages 5.2 yards per carry for the Deacons, who average 232.8 rushing yards per game — 20th in the FBS in rush offense.
The Deacons also feature the ACC's top receiver in sophomore Greg Dortch, who leads the league with eight receptions per game and has 48 of Wake Forest's 106 catches.
Meanwhile, Florida State struggled to run behind an injury-plagued offensive line. The Seminoles have committed 14 turnovers and rank 111th in the FBS in pass defense.
There have been positive signs for the Seminoles. Junior defensive end Brian Burns has seven of the team's 19 sacks, and Florida State ranks 8th in the FBS in allowing just 101.1 rushing yards per game. The offense has often been one-dimensional behind a ground game that has sputtered, but junior quarterback Deondre Francois has connected with freshman Tamorrion Terry on five touchdown passes.
A season that began with such high expectations has been underwhelming. Florida State could have built some momentum for the second half of the year with a win at Miami, but couldn't close out its rival despite leading 27-7 in the third quarter.
"I think we're getting better in every aspect," Taggart said. "We got to take care of the football. You look at a lot games we lost, we weren't good on the turnover battle and that's so important."
Some other things to watch when Wake Forest visits Florida State:
GROUND TO A HALT
One of Florida State's perceived strengths going into 2018 was its talent and depth at running back. But that wasn't the case in the first half of the season.
Cam Akers has just 362 yards and that includes an 85-yard run in the opener against Virginia Tech. Remove that run, and the sophomore is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. The Seminoles' ground attack ranks 126th in the FBS, averaging just 92.8 yards per game.
"We're one off every time," guard Cole Minshew said. "It's four guys doing right, one guy doing wrong. Five guys doing right, one guy doing wrong. Eventually we're all going to hit it right."
And that could happen on Saturday as Florida State faces the ACC's worst rush defense. Wake Forest ranks 121st in the FBS, allowing 236.5 rushing yards per game.
Wake Forest's defense has been a mess.
After Boston College scored 41 and Notre Dame dropped 56 on Wake Forest, coach Dave Clawson fired defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel. The main problem: injuries have depleted depth on defense the Demon Deacons keep giving up big plays.
Boston College scored six touchdowns of 20-plus yards, Notre Dame racked up 566 offensive yards and Clemson had five touchdowns of 50-plus yards.
DUBIOUS TOUCHDOWN STREAK
Florida State hasn't lost to Wake Forest in Tallahassee since 2006. That's also the last time the Demon Deacons scored a touchdown at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Wake Forest has managed just 21 points in the last five road losses to the Seminoles, including shutouts in 2010 and '12. The Demon Deacons have played better against Florida State at home, losing 26-19 in the final minutes in 2017 and 24-16 in 2015.
The Seminoles have a six-game win streak overall in the series.
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