Advanced Outlook: Clemson-Florida State projections

by - Staff Writer -
Tyler Davis will look to make an impact against a dangerous FSU rushing attack.
Tyler Davis will look to make an impact against a dangerous FSU rushing attack.

After an unscheduled season off in the Clemson-Florida State rivalry, let’s see just where Mike Norvell has his Seminoles going into Saturday's clash in Death Valley (3:30 p.m./ESPN).

First off, the transfer portal -- both in and out -- has had a workout down in Tallahassee, but the Seminoles have more 4-star or higher prospects on the roster (29) than Clemson’s two ACC opponent losses this year combined (NC State and Pitt: 27).

So, the talent is certainly there for another conference opponent to upend the preseason prohibitive favorite, and after an 0-4 start, FSU is showing signs of at least being a decent team to finish the 2021 campaign out.

Here’s an overview of how the sides matchup:

Efficiency ranks: Offense | Defense | Special teams

CU SP+ ranks (No. 4 overall): 35 | 3 | 7

FSU SP+ ranks (No. 32 overall): 19 | 53 | 26

CU FPI ranks (No. 10 overall): 89 | 7 | 12

FSU FPI ranks (No. 54 overall): 59 | 61 | 117


ESPN’s SP+ formula is a pretty big fan of both teams despite the 7-7 record between them, with Clemson getting high marks on defense (No. 3) and special teams (7) and Florida State boasting a respectable top-30 offense (19) and special teams unit (26).

FSU actually was more productive offensively from a yards standpoint in its losses to Power 5 foes/Notre Dame (404 YPG) than the wins (380 YPG), but a big difference came in red zone efficiency with a 100% score rate and seven touchdowns in nine trips against Syracuse and UNC against a 62.5% score rate in the P5/Notre Dame losses.

On defense, Florida State has been middle-of-the-road to below average, but it does rank 11th in red zone defense -- 11 of 13 scores allowed being touchdowns, however. They have also been decent against the run by play (No. 36 in success rate allowed - per

Clemson has its share of offensive issues to fix, but the game may come down to the Tiger defense’s ability to contain a dangerous Seminoles rushing attack, which is 11th in Expected Points per rush and second in 20-plus-yard runs nationally (21). Clemson ranks eighth in runs of 10+ yards allowed (2.7 per game) but 47th in 20+ yarders given up (8 total). If the run game can be contained, FSU is just 85th in passing success rate (38.2).

On to the odds and projections...

Odds (via VegasInsider as of 10/28 afternoon)

Clemson -9.5; 47 over/under.

Metrics outlook

SP+ projection: 78% Clemson (Tigers by 13.5)

ESPN FPI: 85.2% Clemson (Tigers by 11.8 points*)

FEI: 74.1% Clemson (Tigers by 11.6)

TeamRankings: Clemson by 7.4

* Projected margin on a neutral field.


Outside of the normal drama that comes with a surprisingly poor campaign so far, Clemson is also facing an unprecedented start against the spread.

Clemson is 0-7 ATS and could be only the seventh team ever to not cover the number in eight-straight games, per the Action Network.

The metrics last week were largely picking Pitt to win and Clemson to cover the just over a field goal spread, and this week, that’s pretty much the case as well outside of TeamRankings picking Clemson to win and FSU to keep it under double-digits for an ATS advantage.

This is another week that pits a certain definition of insanity against a team just being due. However -- if you are actually taking Clemson with the spread in Vegas and the like at this point, you may need to seek some help.


Clemson 24, Florida State 17

(Situational stats per SP+ is a metric from ESPN's Bill Connelly, formerly of Football Outsiders and SB Nation, that combines ratings for the five factors of efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives and turnovers. FPI is the Football Power Index that has a similar projection-style model from ESPN as well. FEI is a Football Outsiders projection tool that judges team efficiency for a projection. #EPA is a statistic that seeks to measure the value of individual plays in terms of points. This is done by calculating the Expected Points# of the down, distance, and field position situation at the start of a play and contrasting it with the situation at the end of the play.)

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