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North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Florida State Seminoles Preview and Predictions 10-17-2020

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North Carolina climbed in the national rankings again, reaching rare real estate that could prompt the Tar Heels to pause to admire the view.

Coach Mack Brown wants his team to save its receipts, not savor the relocation to the top of the ACC.

"We need to buy a house in this neighborhood. We haven't been here much," Brown said. "We've been visiting the first couple of weeks in the Top 10. This is who we want to be, but have we earned it yet?"

The No. 5 Tar Heels are favorites again heading into Saturday night's game against Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.

North Carolina (3-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) hasn't been ranked as high as No. 5 since 1997, which marked Brown's final season in his first stint with the Tar Heels.

"The guys are excited," Brown said. "It's fun to win. ... I'm proud of the guys. I'm proud to be 3-0."

Florida State (1-3, 0-3) hasn't had nearly as much success, though the Seminoles kept it interesting in last week's 42-26 loss at Notre Dame. Now for the second week in a row, Florida State will play a foe ranked No. 5.

"I think we took a step in the positive direction," Florida State coach Mike Norvell said. "I thought we played with the right mindset. We need to go play our best game this week."

The Seminoles, who've also lost to a Miami team that has spent time in the Top 10, is getting accustomed to these mighty tasks.

"It definitely adds a sense of urgency in all aspects of what we need to do," Norvell said. "If we do not go out there and apply the lessons that have been learned, we're going to find ourselves in a very challenging situation."

North Carolina has faced just one ranked team -- running away from then-No. 19 Virginia Tech in last week's 56-45 victory. The Tar Heels begin a stretch against five consecutive opponents who, entering this weekend's games, haven't been ranked at any point this season.

North Carolina's big production against Virginia Tech showcased Tar Heels running backs Michael Carter (214 rushing yards) and Javonte Williams (169). They both scored two touchdowns.

"They're some of the best backs I've ever seen in my life," North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell said. "(Compared to last year) they're being more of a factor in the passing game, too. We have that balance on offense. We have so many playmakers."

North Carolina posted 656 yards of total offense in the Virginia Tech game, the sixth-highest total in program history.

On the other side, there were concerns about the amount of points the Hokies piled up.

"Now we have to go back and figure out what went wrong on defense," Brown said.

The Tar Heels were missing three starters -- tackle Raymond Vohasek and backs Storm Duck and Ja'Qurious Conley -- on defense.

"We're still not playing very well on defense," Brown said. "Too many missed tackles. ... Some fans won't be happy with the defense. What I'm going to tell them is be happy with 3-0."

Florida State plans to start redshirt sophomore quarterback Jordan Travis, who compiled 204 passing yards and 96 rushing yards against Notre Dame in his first career start. The transfer from Louisville displayed playmaking skills.

"I'm excited to see him build upon that," Norvell said.

Brown, a Florida State alumnus, is 0-9 vs. his alma mater (0-3 with Tulane, 0-6 with North Carolina).

This is the 20th meeting between these teams, and only the third time that Florida State doesn't hold a national ranking.

For the third straight meeting, the teams will collide in Tallahassee. North Carolina won on trips in 2010 and 2016, both by 37-35 scores.

--Field Level Media

Prediction

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Key Players to Watch

Stadium

Doak Campbell Stadium
Tallahassee, Florida, USA.
Capacity: 82,300

Last Injuries

Florida State Seminoles

  • Darius Washington

    Leg
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Washington has been held out of the last two games with a right leg injury, and his status for Saturday's clash against Louisville is in question.

  • Tru Thompson

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Thompson sat out the last game with an unlisted injury, and it has yet to be determined if he will be in the lineup against Louisville on Saturday.

  • Jordan Travis

    Leg
    Prob Sat | probable

    Travis sustained a leg injury in the previous contest but is expected to dress for Saturday's matchup against Louisville.

  • Jarrian Jones

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Jones was unavailable for the previous game due to an unlisted issue, and his status for Saturday's contest against Louisville is hazy.

  • Fabien Lovett

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Lovett sat out the last game due to an undisclosed injury, and it remains to be seen if it will impede his status for Saturday's battle against Louisville.

  • D.J. Matthews

    Illness
    Out indefinitely | out

    Matthews is working his way back after testing positive for COVID-19. It is undetermined when he will make his season debut.

  • Hamsah Nasirildeen

    Knee
    Out indefinitely | out

    Nasirildeen is recuperating from a torn ACL in his left knee that ended his 2019 season. It is unclear when he will make his debut.

  • Tamorrion Terry

    Knee
    Early Nov | out

    Terry is expected to be debilitated until the early part of November due to having surgery conducted on his left knee.

North Carolina Tar Heels

  • Emery Simmons

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Simmons has sat out the last two games due to an undetermined injury, and it is unknown if he will suit up Saturday against NC State.

  • Ja'Qurious Conley

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Conley has sat out the last two games due to an unspecified injury, and it is unknown if he will suit up for Saturday's clash against NC State.

  • Storm Duck

    Undisclosed
    Out Sat | out

    Duck has missed the last two games due to an unspecified ailment, and he will not face NC State on Saturday.

  • Raymond Vohasek

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Vohasek missed the last game with an undetermined injury, and it is up in the air if he will play against Florida State on Saturday.

  • Kedrick Bingley-Jones

    Lower Body
    Out indefinitely | out

    Bingley-Jones is recovering from surgery to fix a lower-body injury. It is undetermined if he will make his season debut.

  • Ethan West

    Upper Body
    out for season | out

    West will miss the remainder of the 2020 season with an upper-body injury.