Five storylines: FSU vs. Wake Forest


After two weeks of warm-up games, there's finally a big game in Tallahassee, as Florida State welcomes Wake Forest, its first ACC foe of the season.

While Murray State and Savannah State didn't offer much insight into the 2012 season for the Seminoles, this week promises to begin answering some big questions. Here are five storylines to watch as we get set for game day.

1. How good is Florida State, really?

No one's arguing with the dominance the Seminoles showed in winning their first two games by a combined score of 124-3, but the level of competition hardly provided a real test. Wake Forest, meanwhile, will be a big step up from Murray State and Savannah State.

FSU's new-look offensive line and revamped linebacker corps will be tested against a conference opponent, which means a first glimpse at whether the Seminoles are ready to be counted among the best teams in the country.

"Everybody knows the circumstances that was going on in the first two games," safety Lamarcus Joyner said. "We're about to be challenged, and we're ready to show everybody we're ready to live up to those high expectations."

2. Will Nikita Whitlock play for Wake Forest?

The Demon Deacons' top defender finished last week's game against North Carolina with an injured ankle, and coach Jim Grobe has been vague when asked whether Whitlock would be able to play this week against Florida State.

Jimbo Fisher said he has no doubt Whitlock will be on the field, and if he is, there's a good chance he'll be creating some havoc.

"You've got to always know where he's at and what he's doing," Fisher said. "The guy is one heck of a football player. He's got a motor that doesn't stop."

3. Will Florida State exact some revenge?

FSU is a heavy favorite, but Fisher has heard that before, and it hasn't stopped Wake Forest from winning four of its last six meetings with the Seminoles.

Last year's game might have been a low point for Fisher's Seminoles. It was their third loss in a row, one in which much of the damage was self-inflicted, thanks to five turnovers.

It was also a wake-up call, Fisher said, with several veterans finally stepping into leadership roles in hopes of salvaging the season. Florida State has won nine of 10 games since then, and now those same players are hoping to show how far they've come since last year's defeat.

"I know those guys are going to go out and play hard just because of the effect it had on us last year," running back Chris Thompson said. "We shouldn't be going back to that, but it did happen."

4. Which offensive line has improved more?

A year ago, EJ Manuel and Tanner Price were two of the ACC's most productive quarterbacks, but they also were two of its most tormented. Price threw for 3,017 yards and 20 touchdowns, but he was sacked 34 times. Manuel had nearly 2,700 yards passing and 18 touchdowns, but he was dropped 33 times. Both teams have tweaked their offensive lines this season, including FSU's new unit which hasn't allowed a sack through two games. But against two potentially fearsome defensive fronts, the new-look offensive liens will be tested -- with the unit that plays better potentially being the difference for two veteran quarterbacks.

5. Will it be an early preview of FSU-Clemson?

You won't find anyone at Florida State looking past Wake Forest after last year's loss, but there's also the added wrinkle that the Deacons can provide a nice sneak peek at what could be in store in a potentially huge matchup of ACC powers the following week.

Wake Forest's offense has been tweaked a bit this season, and Joyner said the Deacons look an awful lot like Clemson.

"Going against Wake, you get to prepare for Clemson," Joyner said. "So as a defense, you have to prepare for it very well."

Add in the first major test for Florida State's defensive backs in the form of wide receiver Michael Campanaro, who had 13 catches for 164 yards against North Carolina last week, and Xavier Rhodes and Co. should have a solid warmup for Sammy Watkins' arrival in Week 4.