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UNC at #24 Florida State

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Where: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida
When: Saturday, November 6, 3:30 PM
TV: ABC Regional Internet: ESPN3.com
Records: UNC 5-3, 2-2 ACC; FSU 6-2, 4-1

Now it gets crucial.

UNC begins a stretch of three ranked teams in three weeks by taking on a Florida State team that is tied for first in the Atlantic Division. FSU is still smarting from a loss at NC State last week where they seemed to have the game in hand, while UNC escaped a sub-par effort with a homecoming win over William & Mary.

Speaking of letting a game get away, Carolina led the Seminoles 24-6 in the 3rd quarter in last year's game before ultimately falling 30-27. FSU quarterback Christian Ponder looked like a Heisman candidate last year, throwing for nearly 400 yards (including a 98-yard TD pass) against a defensive secondary much more healthy than what he will face on Saturday.

FSU at its best will remind UNC fans of Miami, and that's not a good thing. FSU has a balanced offensive attack and is better at RB than the Canes, but the defense is what has returned FSU to the top 25. The Noles are the nation's top team for sacks, which is not good news for Carolina's underperforming offensive line.

The key on offense, as always, is for Carolina to establish the run so that T.J. Yates can utilize play action and buy some time to throw. If Johnny White can't find openings in the FSU line, then UNC will face a lot of 3rd-and-longs and then the Noles will pin their ears back and make Yates' life miserable. Defensively, the Heels must get Ponder and his offense off the field. A lot of three-and-outs by Carolina's offense will put a lot of pressure on a still-thin defense. And who can forget that Ponder looked like a Heisman candidate last year against UNC's full-strength defense?

Given that UNC plays the top two Atlantic Division teams and the top Coastal Division team in the next three weeks, the Tar Heels still have a lot of say in who will play in the ACC title game in Charlotte. The Heels themselves have a mathematical shot to make it there themselves, though Joshua Nesbitt's broken arm may throw a kink in those plans. Carolina has only beaten FSU once in 17 tries, but for all their positives, this Seminoles team still has a lot of question marks and can be exploited, as NC State showed last week.

Still I'm not sure UNC has enough to take down the Seminoles in Tallahassee. It will require a solid game by White, the return of good T.J. Yates, and big plays by the receivers and the defense. My heart remains hopeful, but my head says FSU defends the home turf today.

FSU 27, UNC 17