Three key matchups for Florida State against #4 Clemson

Florida State (2-6) will try to pull off the near-impossible at noon this Saturday when they welcome the fourth-ranked Clemson Tigers (7-1) to Doak Campbell Stadium. Dabo Swinney and company have now won five straight in this rivalry, and you can count on them trying to humiliate Mike Norvell and the Seminoles when the two meet for the first time this weekend.

Here are three key matchups to look for.

  1. Trevor Lawrence & Clemson Pass Offense vs. FSU Secondary

As you could guess, this will be the toughest matchup to date for the ‘Noles secondary. Lawrence is the best quarterback in the country. He will enter the game with three weeks of rest under his belt. Before his bout with COVID-19, Lawrence was dominant (1,833 yards, 17 touchdowns, two interceptions). Amari Rodgers (48 catches, 720 yards, six touchdowns) leads the receiving group in every category. He primarily operates out the slot, a position that has given FSU trouble all season long. Cornell Powell and Frank Ladson Jr are the two starters on the outside and are just as capable of having big days. It seems that Asante Samuel Jr. and Jarvis Brownlee Jr. have separated themselves as the two top cornerbacks. But if the ‘Noles hope to stay competitive with this Clemson passing offense, others must step up and help cover the field.

2. Travis Etienne vs. FSU Rush Defense

Similar to Lawrence, Etienne is arguably the top running back in the country. Through eight games, he has recorded 634 yards on 121 rushes, along with ten touchdowns. The 5’10, 205lbs senior has a mixture of burst and vision that make him a threat at any moment. The Seminoles can not afford to give up easy gaps, because Etienne will take it to the house every time. In addition to his rushing ability, he is also just as much of a threat in the receiving game. His 37 catches for 491 yards (and two touchdowns) would slot him in as the top receiver if he were on FSU, which is very telling. With the way the ‘Noles rush defense has fared against lesser competition, fans can only hope that Etienne is held somewhat in check, if at all.

3. FSU Pass Offense vs. Clemson Secondary

While the starting quarterback question remains unanswered, Mike Norvell and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham will have to cherish each and every offensive possession. You should expect to see some quick-hitter, screen concepts designed for Jashuan Corbin and La’Damian Webb out of the backfield. If either gets adequate blocking, they could burst a couple for double-digit gains. That would be considered a success for the way the passing offense has looked recently. The performance from the receiving group has been disappointing. Ontaria Wilson was a bright spot against NC State (7 catches, 117 yards, one touchdown), and will look to finish the rest of the season in the number one role. Warren Thompson showed flashes against NC State but has still failed to perform consistently. Overall, the passing game should not be expected to do much Saturday, However, it might be the toughest aspect of the game for the ‘Noles.

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