WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina — No. 11 Florida State had a pretty rough time in its last visit to a mid-level Atlantic Division opponent.
The Seminoles (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) would rather not endure another one Saturday at Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1).
Boston College gave them fits two weeks ago before Florida State scratched out a 14-0 win. Coach Jimbo Fisher said this trip to Wake Forest is a "double-whammy game" because it's one the Seminoles can't afford to lose if they want to remain atop the division.
"We have to go up there, play well, keep continuing to get better, improve on the things we need to improve on," Fisher said. "The things we are doing well, we have to keep continuing to get better. We have to grow each week and take the steps necessary to keep being a better football team, so by the end of the year, we want to be who we want to be."
The Seminoles haven't had much trouble with Wake Forest lately, winning the last three matchups by an average of 49 points.
They haven't allowed more than 16 points or 300 yards in any of their three wins — and that poses a huge problem for a Demon Deacons team that has 11 freshmen or redshirt freshmen on its offensive depth chart.
An offensive line that starts two redshirt freshmen has allowed an ACC-worst 15 sacks so far, including six in last week's loss to Indiana. Yet Wake Forest leads the ACC in passing, averaging 300 yards.
Coach Dave Clawson said, "I think it's clear we're better" than in 2014 — when the Demon Deacons had the same record after four games.
"This team is better and has a better chance to knock people off going down the stretch than last year's team," Clawson said. "But we've got to play the games and see how it plays out. What you want, year to year, is a net gain. ... By every measure statistically, (Wake Forest is) better from this point a year ago. ... But what matters is wins and losses."
Some things to know about the Florida State-Wake Forest game:
FSU OFFENSE: The Seminoles are looking for more consistency on offense, and they hope having the past week off helped. Notre Dame graduate transfer Everett Golson has thrown for 282 yards and two touchdowns in his past two games after throwing for 302 with four TDs in the opener.
NO PENDER: Florida State won't have RB Mario Pender, who is dealing with a collapsed lung. That means Dalvin Cook will shoulder even more of the load for the Seminoles. Clawson says Cook — the ACC's leading rusher at 158 yards per game — "might be the best running back we've faced in our two years here."
QB QUESTIONS: Wake Forest hasn't decided whether sophomore John Wolford or freshman Kendall Hinton will start at quarterback. Clawson says Wolford is the unquestioned starter if he's healthy, but added that Hinton is the best option if Wolford is anything less than 100 percent. Wolford threw for more than 300 yards in each of the first two games, while Hinton led the team in rushing in the last two.
TURNOVER TROUBLES: The Demon Deacons are one of two teams in the FBS who have yet to force a turnover. They may have a hard time generating one this week — Florida State has just one, and Golson has yet to throw an interception.
SERIES HISTORY: The last Top 25 opponent Wake Forest beat was Florida State in 2011. The Seminoles were No. 23 when the Demon Deacons won 35-30.
Associated Press writer Joe Reedy in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.
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