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Game Preview: Florida State at No. 2 Clemson

Game Introduction:

The Seminoles are coming off their best and most complete win of the season as the ship looks to be turning in the right direction. But after the bye week, FSU will now head to Death Valley to take on the number 2 ranked Clemson Tigers. The defending champs have had an up-and-down season so far, reminiscent of 2014 FSU, but they’re still one of the best teams in the nation. Last season, the Tigers demolished FSU in Doak Campbell, 59-10. This year, the Seminoles are a much better team, but with the game in Death Valley, they’re 4-TD underdogs. Florida State and Clemson will kick off on ABC at 3:30 on Saturday.

Headlines:

FSU looking to avoid 5th straight loss to Clemson

In 32 games, the Seminoles have won 20 against the Tigers, but recently it has been a major struggle for the ‘Noles. Clemson has won the last 4 games against FSU and have outscored the Seminoles by 79 points. Since Dabo Swinney took over at Clemson, the Tigers have won 6 of 10 games against Florida State. In recent years, the programs have headed in different directions as Swinney has made the Tigers one of, if not the top program in the nations. In the last 2 years combined, FSU has gained 476 yards on offense, while Clemson put up 524 just last year. FSU needs to show up in Death Valley and show Clemson that they are headed in the right direction. Florida State doesn’t have to necessarily win, but keep it competitive and not allow another rout to happen.



Florida State hitting the road for just 2nd time this season

Through 5 games this season, the ‘Noles have only left Doak Campbell once. On their one game on the road, FSU lost on a last second play to a very strong UVA team. Last year, State had major struggles on the road, going 1-4 on the road. The last time FSU visited Clemson, a James Blackman led ‘Noles team fell 31-14. Now the Seminoles will have to go to one of the best atmospheres in College football, Death Valley. Earlier this season, Florida State looked extremely focused on the road in Charlottesville. Maybe FSU is just more focused in road games with less distractions. After a bye week, their best game, and facing the number 2 team in the nation the Seminoles should be ready to go at kickoff.

Burning Questions:

Will Clemson have a 2nd straight down game?

Before the bye week, Clemson nearly lost for the first time in 20 games, but a failed 2-point conversion by Sam Howell and the fighting Mack Brown’s gave Clemson another W. The Tigers were 27-point favorites and ended up winning by just 1 point. The Tarheels were able to keep up with Clemson for a complete 4 quarters as the Tigers just unfocused. All season they have looked a tick off after their National Championship last season. But coming off a bye week and getting ready for a rivalry game, I’d expect Dabo to have his guys locked in and ready to go. Trevor Lawrence has been off since all the offseason Heisman hype, but a bye week could get him locked in. I wouldn’t expect another down game from Clemson, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Florida State can’t keep this game respectable.

Can a 2-QB system really work for FSU?

Earlier this week, Willie Taggart announced that the ‘Noles will go with James Blackman as starter but also use Alex Hornibrook throughout the game. I think both moves are the right call. Blackman is your leader and that is the guy you want leading your team into the Clemson atmosphere. But FSU also wants the curveball which is throwing in Hornibrook after JB1. Both guys are capable of running the FSU offense, but they do different things well. Blackman has the ability to open up the defense over the top while Hornibrook reads the defense quickly and gets the ball out to his receivers. If you put them together, it would be a very good QB, so this is the next best solution. As the game goes on, the ‘Noles can ride with the hot hand. If you put their numbers together, FSU’s QB’s have 410 more passing yards, 6 more TD’s, and 3 less INT’s than Trevor Lawrence.

Forecast:

FSU has the talent to match up with Clemson at most skill positions, but the battles in the trenches will likely decide this game. FSU’s O-line has allowed 19 sacks to just 4 for the Clemson O-line. FSU has nothing to lose in this game so I’d expect them to be aggressive on both sides of the ball, blitzing on defense to get in Lawrence’s face and taking deep shots with Blackman to try and open up the run game for Cam Akers. The Florida State football program is heading in the right direction, but they’re running into a roadblock in the defending national champs. FSU is about 30-40 points better than last year’s team, but the ‘Noles were down 59-3 to the Tigers at one point last year. My brain tells me FSU will lose this game about 38-21, but I really hope I’m wrong and FSU wins 42-41.


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