Florida State ( 7-1) vs. Clemson (8-0) 3:30 pm
Florida State is 4-1 against the Clemson Tigers over the last five games since 2010 and have won those games by an average of 14.5 points per game. Last year in Florida State- the Seminoles escaped with a 23-17 victory in overtime. Status of FSU quarterback Everett Golson and running back Dalvin Cook uncertain at time of article. Both players did not play last week in the Seminoles victory over Syracuse.
The Seminoles looked very cohesive as a unit without starting quarterback Everett Golson and running back Dalvin Cook out of the lineup last Saturday. Florida State exploded for 45 points with backup quarterback Sean Maguire and freshman running back Jaques Patrick leading the way en route to the 45-21 win over the Syracuse Orange. Maguire threw for three touchdown passes (348 passing yards) and Patrick rushed for 162 yards and three rushing touchdowns to speak the offense in the home win. It was the most complete offensive effort all season and is a positive sign heading into this weekend matchup in Death Valley. Starting quarterback Everett Golson was dealing with concussion like symptoms and was held out of the game. On the season, Golson has completed 67.1% of his passes for 1,659 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception. On the year, Florida State is averaging 32.8 points per game and has relied heavily on the ground game rushing for 180 yards per game this season. Maquire did start this game last season and did throw for over 300 yards in the win. His performance last week gives head coach Jimbo Fisher another option should Golson start and struggle on the road. Florida State will want to run the football against Clemson with Dalvin Cook, who is battling a hamstring injury. Cook has been the main offensive weapon prior to last week’s win and leads the team with 1037 yards rushing averaging 8.1 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns. The Seminoles can turn to Patrick should Cook not be available or be at full strength on Saturday. Patrick is a bigger back that is more physical than Cook and can play a factor on Saturday in short yardage situations. The offensive game plan will be to control the time of possession and keep Clemson into a low scoring battle. Even though the Seminoles broke out last week, the consistency has not been there offensively and they will be facing a Clemson team that is hitting on all cylinders offensively entering this game. Florida State is averaging 260 passing yards per game and wide receivers Travis Rudolph, Jesus Wilson and Kermit Whitfield will need to be utilized in the short to intermediate routes over the middle of the field. On the season, the trio has combined for 105 receptions for 1,369 yards with 10 touchdowns. If Florida State can utilize the short passing game early on, this can neutralize a solid Clemson pass rush and take the pressure off of the Seminoles offensive line. Look for the Seminoles to use the screen game early on to keep the Clemson defense off balance.
The Seminoles have a very underrated defense this season that has been playing very physical on the defensive line and will need to play their best this weekend for the team to pull off the victory. Florida State is allowing 16.8 points per game and is allowing 139 rushing yards per game. Linebacker Reggie Northrup is leading the team with 55 total tackles and is a player that can change the momentum of a game with his physical style of play. Florida State has 18 sacks on the season and will need to get pressure on Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson to force quick reads into coverage. The Seminoles have been very opportunistic this season and will need to win the turnover battle on Saturday to get the victory. On the year, the team is +9 in turnover margin and will need their secondary to make plays against the Tigers big wide receivers. Florida State is allowing 260 yards per game and will need to play more zone coverage to force Clemson to work down the field methodically. Defensive lineman Demarcus Walker is having a solid season and leads the team with 5.5 sacks.
The Tigers are coming off of an impressive 56-41 victory in Raleigh, NC against ACC opponent NC State. Quarterback DeShaun Watson accounted for 6 total touchdowns (5 pass, 1 rush) in the win and has looked sharp in consecutive victories over Boston College, Miami and NC State. The Tigers put up 623 yards of total offense last week and have put up over 500 yards in three straight games heading into this matchup. Watson has made great decisions in engineering the offense and will be the key on Saturday against Florida State. Clemson likes to start fast and play an up-tempo attack that puts pressure not only on opposing defenses, but opposing offenses to match them score for score. Watson has completed 70.3% of his passes for 1,936 yards with 20 touchdowns and 7 interceptions on the season. Clemson is very balanced and is rushing for 218 yards per game and passing for 267 yards per game through the air. Running back Wayne Gallman is an explosive running back that has great vision in hitting running lanes. Gallman leads the team with 874 rushing yards averaging 5.5 yards per carry with 7 touchdowns. Clemson causes a ton of mismatch problems for opposing defenses with their wide receiver corps. The Tigers have a combination of speed and height which puts pressure on secondaries to cover their tight ends with linebackers or nickel backs. Wide receiver Artavis Scott leads the team with 47 receptions for 514 yards with 4 scores. Senior wide receiver Charon Peake is another versatile player that can play outside or in the slot to create mismatch issues and has 19 receptions for 273 yards with 3 touchdowns. Clemson will want to test the Seminoles deep early on which can then open up the running game for Gallman.
The Clemson defense has the potential to be better than they were last season when the team had the #1 ranked statistical defense in FBS allowing 261 total yards per game. Clemson is very good in stopping the run and is giving up 109 rushing yards per game. Their ability to shut down the run has made opposing offenses one dimensional and has put pressure on opposing offensive lines in pass protection. Clemson is allowing 169 passing yards per game and will force Florida State to throw over the top no matter who is playing quarterback for the Seminoles. Led by defensive end Shaq Lawson, the unit has done an excellent job in creating pressure on opposing quarterbacks and has recorded 24 sacks through the teams’ first eight games. Lawson leads the team with 6.5 sacks and has great quickness off the edge. Clemson’s ability to stop the run forces teams into third down and long situations which is a strength of the defense. Entering this game, the Tigers are allowing opposing offenses to covert on 21% of the time on third downs. If there is a weakness of the team, it is turnover margin. In big games, teams need to create turnovers and the Tigers have a +1 turnover margin entering this game.
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor atwww.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com).
Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2.
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