No. 2 Clemson at Florida State
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Second-ranked Clemson looks to do something that has never been done since Florida State joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1992 … become the first team as a member of the ACC to beat the Seminoles four straight years.
Clemson, who visits FSU for a noon kick today at Doak Campbell Stadium, has won the last three games between the two Atlantic Division rivals. The Tigers won a classic in Tallahassee, Fla., two years ago when former tight end Jordan Leggett caught the game-winning touchdown from Deshaun Watson for a 37-34 victory.
So, who has the edge this year?
Clemson’s D-Line vs. FSU’s O-Line: This is the matchup to watch out for. Look for the Tigers’ defensive line, led by Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, to be motivated after FSU head coach Willie Taggart said he was not concerned about them. Taggart did not do his offensive line any favors, either. The Tigers have 21 sacks and 66 tackles for loss thus far this season. Clemson’s opponents are averaging just 2.6 yards per rush and 107.7 yards per game. FSU ranks last in the ACC is rushing offense (98.4 yds/game), yards per carry (2.92), rushing touchdowns (7), tackles for loss allowed (61) and TFL’s per game (8.7). The Seminoles have not rushed for more than 134 yards in any game this season and four times they’ve failed to reach 100 rushing yards. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s O-line vs. FSU’s D-Line: Clemson will be without All-ACC center Justin Falcinelli after he suffered a concussion in practice. Gage Cervenka will get the start in his place. This is could be a big deal for the Tigers considering the center calls out the protections. However, Cervenka is more than capable of getting the job done. FSU’s defensive line is the strength of the team, and is led by defensive end Brian Burns, who leads the ACC with 9 sacks and ranks third in the conference in TFLs with 11.5. The Seminoles are also tied with Miami for the lead in sacks (25) and are averaging 7.4 tackles for loss per game. They had 13 TFLs against earlier this year. FSU leads the ACC in rushing defense at 100.4 yards per game on the ground. Advantage: Florida State
Clemson’s passing attack vs. FSU’s secondary: Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for 308 yards and one touchdown in last week’s rout of NC State. The Tigers passing game is getting better and better each week with the talented freshman leading the way. His 168.0 passing efficiency rating leads the ACC. He is completing 68.3 percent of his passes. Lawrence’s ability to prove he can make pro-like throws should forces teams to back off trying to limit Travis Etienne and the running game. Clemson’s wide receivers are also excellent. Tee Higgins leads the team with 26 receptions for 426 yards and 4 touchdowns, while freshman Justyn Ross has 19 receptions for 361 yards and 4 touchdowns as well. There is also Hunter Renfrow, Amari Rodgers, Derion Kendrick and Diondre Overton to the throw the ball to as well. Florida State’s secondary has struggled all year. They are allowing 271.3 yards per game through the air (next to last in the ACC) and has given up 15 touchdown passes. They allowed FCS foe Samford to throw for 475 yards earlier this season. Opponents are completing 53.6 percent of their passes for 1,899 yards. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s secondary vs. FSU’s passing game: Quarterback Deondre Francois is having a very good season to this point. Despite being sacked 18 times (11th in the ACC) he has still thrown for 1,859 yards, while completing 62.9 percent of his passes. The redshirt sophomore has 13 touchdown passes to six interceptions and has a passer rating of 139.21. Wide receiver Nyqwan Murray leads the ‘Noles with 35 receptions for 487 yards and three touchdowns. Keith Gavin has 22 catches for 358 yards and two scores, while Tamorrion Terry is FSU’s big-play receiver. He has 14 catches for 308 yards (22.0 yds/catch) and has caught a team-high five touchdowns. Clemson’s secondary is getting better and better with each game. Last week, guys like safeties Tanner Muse, K’Von Wallace, A.J. Terrell and Mark Fields, made play after play on NC State’s talented receivers, while helping hold ACC passing leader Ryan Finley to a season-low 156 yards and intercepting him twice. Trayvon Mullen has been a shutdown corner all year for the Tigers as well and seldom has the ball thrown in his direction. The Tigers’ defense ranks second in the ACC in passing yards allowed (158.6), first in completions allowed (88), second in completion percentage (52.1), third in yards per attempt (6.6) and No. 1 in touchdown passes allowed (5). Advantage: Clemson
Bottom line: Florida State will come out and play with a tremendous amount of passion and there is enough talent on the roster to cause the Tigers fits at times. However, Clemson has more depth and is better overall at the lines of scrimmage than the Seminoles are. Look for this one to be close for a little while, but for the Tigers to pull away late in the game.
Prediction: Clemson 27, Florida State 14