Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2011. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2012.
As part of our 2012 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.
Team: Florida State Seminoles
Opponent: Wake Forest
Last Year: Loss, 35-30 at Wake Forest
This Year: September 15, vs. Wake Forest
As much as last year’s defeat at Wake hurt, dropping the ‘Noles to 0-2 in the ACC, this rematch is more about retribution for the past six seasons. Since 2006, Florida State has lost four of six to the “inferior” Demon Deacons, including three straight from 2006 through 2008. Of all the disappointing performances FSU critics point to, this string of futility against Wake Forest usually tops on the list – and with good reason, given how quick State fans are to dismiss the Deacs. Last season, coming off back-to-back rough losses against ranked opponents (Oklahoma and Clemson), Florida State desperately needed an impressive showing to right the ship and get above .500 again. Unfortunately, Wake Forest would not oblige. Taking advantage of FSU mistakes, the Demon Deacons committed zero turnovers and managed to score 35 points on one of the country’s top defensive units. And as much as the loss could be chalked up to E.J. Manuel shaking off some rust (he’d been unavailable the previous three weeks), it’s debatable how much it would’ve mattered anyway. Wake QB Tanner Price was spot-on all day, with three touchdown passes, while running back Josh Harris kept finding holes in the ‘Noles D-line. Once again, Deacs’ coach Jim Grobe vexed the Seminoles, and they dropped to 2-3 overall.
In 2012, the stakes will be even higher for Florida State. A possible national title contender and early ACC favorite, FSU will likely be 2-0 when they run into Wake Forest on the season’s third weekend. While there’s little doubt they’ll cruise through their first two opponents — both FCS squads — they’re determined not to look past the Demon Deacons again, as they did last season. The keys to the game will be putting pressure on Price, who is prone to rush throws when hurried. By containing Harris — unlike last time — Wake’s offense becomes far too one-dimensional, and struggles for effectiveness. While Price is a fine passer, he still needs more experience to truly carry this team on his back, but FSU’s front line has the ability to make him try. If Florida State is truly a top-five team, this game will be an early judge of that claim’s validity.