Clemson vs. FSU predicton: Can the Seminoles pull off the upset?


by - Senior Writer -
Clemson takes on Florida St. at noon Saturday
Clemson takes on Florida St. at noon Saturday

Can Florida St. continue its upward trend and knock off No. 2 Clemson? Can the Tigers avoid the upset that has plagued the holder of the number two rankings the last two weeks? We will find out starting Saturday at noon.

Florida State (4-3) has made progress following a disastrous early stretch in which it was blown out by Virginia Tech and Syracuse. The Seminoles likely played their most complete game of the season in last week's 38-17 win over Wake Forest, racking up 485 yards of total offense and holding the Demon Deacons scoreless for nearly a three-quarter stretch in which they turned a close game early into a blowout.

In each of the previous two weeks, the No. 2 team in the Amway USA TODAY Sports coaches poll was embarrassed on national television, with Georgia losing at LSU two weeks ago and Ohio St. getting blown out at Purdue last weekend.

Can the Tigers avoid the upset-minded Seminoles?

NO. 2/2 CLEMSON (7-0, 4-0 ACC) at FLORIDA STATE (4-3, 2-3 ACC)

WHEN: SATURDAY, OCT. 27, NOON ET

WHERE: DOAK CAMPBELL STADIUM (79,560), TALLAHASSEE, FLA.

TV Channel: ABC

TV Announcers: Bob Wischusen (Play-by-Play), Brock Huard (Color), Allison Williams (Sideline).

Where to Listen: Clemson Tiger Network Radio Affiliates, 105.5 the Roar App.

Radio Announcers: Don Munson (Play-by-Play), Rodney Williams (Color), Tim Bourret (Color), Reggie Merriweather (Sideline)

Where to stream: WatchESPN

XM Radio: The game can also be heard on SIRIUS Channel 113, XM Channel 194and Internet Channel 956.

NOTABLE

*The game is a matchup of the only two schools to represent the Atlantic Division in the ACC Championship since 2009, Dabo Swinney's first full season as Clemson's head coach. Clemson has earned five division titles in those nine years, with Florida State earning the other four. The two schools have dominated the Atlantic Division, while the Coastal Division has featured five different champions in the last five years.

*Florida State holds a 20-11 advantage in the series with Clemson dating back to the schools' first meeting, a 38-13 Florida State win in Tallahassee in 1970. Clemson has a 9-6 advantage over the last 15 games, including a five-game home winning streak until 2013. The home team has won 13 of the last 16 games. Since 2003, Clemson won at Florida State twice, in 2006 and 2016. Florida State’s only win at Clemson since 2001 was in 2013. So the last two road wins in the series (Florida State in 2013, Clemson in 2016) both preceded National Championship victories that year.

* Clemson has played 15 games in the state of Florida under Head Coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson is 8-7 in those contests but has won seven of its last eight in the Sunshine State. The Tigers have earned six consecutive victories in Florida dating back to the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando. Saturday's game will be Clemson's first in Florida since culminating its 2016 national championship run in Tampa with a 35-31 win against Alabama.

* Florida State has six wins all-time against teams ranked either No. 1 or 2 in the AP poll, with the most recent victory coming against No. 2 Auburn in the 2013 season (2014 BCS Championship Game). FSU has two wins against AP Top 2 teams at Doak Campbell Stadium - 1996 against No. 1 Florida (24-21) and 1989 against No. 2 Miami (24-10). The last time FSU hosted a Top 2 team was when No. 1 Oklahoma came to Tallahassee in 2011.

WHEN FLORIDA ST. HAS THE BALL

FSU’s offensive line, the subject of plenty of criticism early in the season, has made steady improvements over the last few weeks. The Seminoles haven’t allowed a sack in two of their last three games, and, against Wake Forest, they helped clear the way for one of the team’s most encouraging rushing performances of the season. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Wake Forest’s defensive front is nowhere near the caliber that Clemson brings to town.

The Seminoles recorded season-high totals in points (38), total offense (485), passing offense (353), rushing touchdowns (3), yards per play (6.9), yards per rush (4.6) and sacks (6) in their win over the Demon Deacons, so the offense is clicking at the right time.

However – the ‘Noles have allowed 18 sacks on the season, and that will be the main concern Saturday. Can they run the football enough to slow down the Clemson pass rush? They will get yards, and some of those yards will come in chunks, but Deondre Francois will be under pressure all afternoon.

ADVANTAGE: CLEMSON

WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL

Let’s get this out of the way in a hurry – the FSU defense is legit despite an overall ranking of 54th nationally. FSU ranks 1st in the ACC and 8th in the NCAA in rush defense, allowing only 100.4 yards per game on the ground. Since allowing 91.9 yards per game in 2012, FSU’s lowest season rushing defense average is 124.8 in 2013. The Seminoles have held their opponent to 30 points or less in 11 straight games, the 4th-longest active streak in the nation. Florida State’s defense recorded 13.0 tackles for loss at No. 17 Miami. The total is the 3rd-highest by an ACC team in a conference game this year and was FSU’s most since registering 15.0 TFLs Dec. 30, 2016, in an Orange Bowl victory vs. No. 6 Michigan.

That means the FSU defense will take a page out of the NC State gameplan – stop Travis Etienne and the Clemson run game. The Wolfpack held Etienne to just 39 yards (he still scored three touchdowns). Trevor Lawrence threw for a career-high 308 yards and he has a talented quartet of receivers to throw to - the combination of Amari Rodgers, Tee Higgins, Hunter Renfrow and Justyn Ross have combined for 91 catches, 1,276 yards and 10 touchdowns. Among the four, Huggins is the top threat and leads the team with 26 catches.

The weak link of the FSU defense is the secondary – they’ve allowed big play after big play and rank 44th nationally in pass efficiency defense. The Tigers will have some big plays in the passing game.

ADVANTAGE: CLEMSON

FSU kicker Ricky Aguayo has shrugged off a slow start and has converted on six of his last eight attempts. Logan Tyler, the Seminole punter, has a very good average at 43.3 yards that is good for third in the ACC. Punter returner D.J. Matthews. ranks No. 4 nationally, averaging 15.9 yards per return. Kickoff returns have been modest.

For Clemson, senior placekicker Greg Huegel has hit 7 of 10 field goal attempts with a long of 49 yards. The Tigers rank in the bottom half of the ACC in punting, with sophomore Will Spears averaging just 39.9 yards per kick. Clemson has yet to bring back a kick or punt return for a score, but Amari Rodgers looks close to breaking one every week.

With Cornell Powell needing to redshirt, freshman Derion Kendrick will get more of a chance at kick return, and his big return on the opening kickoff last week jump started the offense.

ADVANTAGE: SLIGHT TO FSU

WHAT WILL HAPPEN

No matter how good the Seminole offense has played in recent weeks, their offensive line would have to play its best game in three years if they want to pull off the upset. The matchup against the Clemson defensive line is a mismatch, and that will show as the game progresses. That means it will be up to the Florida St. defense to keep the score close, and they will use a variety of blitz packages and stack the box, hoping to not only stop the Clemson run game but rattle Lawrence.

It will work at times, and at times the ‘Noles will give up big plays.

On the Clemson side of the ball, the offensive line has to keep Lawrence upright and avoid a big play on special teams.

The crowd and the early start will make for a tight first quarter and maybe even a tight first half, but the talent takes over in the third quarter.

FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 38, FSU 13


GUEST PREDICTIONS

Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 37-17 Clemson

Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 38-17 Clemson

Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 35-17 Clemson

Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 34-20 Clemson

Hannah Rogerson - TigerNet Intern - 34-12 Clemson

Pigskin Prophet - 45-10 Clemson

Game Actual David Hood Mickey Plyler Tony Crumpton Nikki Hood Brandon Rink Hannah Rogerson Pigskin Prophet
Furman 48-7 CU 54-9 CU 55-10 CU 52-7 CU 49-7 CU 55-3 CU 28-7 CU 52-3 CU
Texas A&M 28-26 CU 27-13 CU 34-17 CU 31-17 CU 28-13 CU 34-16 CU 31-20 CU 31-16 CU
GA Southern 38-7 CU 47-10 CU 42-10 CU 51-13 CU 38-7 CU 45-10 CU 32-10 CU 48-9 CU
GT 49-21 CU 31-14 CU 37-17 CU 31-14 CU 38-21 CU 38-14 CU 32-10 CU 38-13 CU
Syracuse 27-23 CU 45-17 CU 51-21 CU 48-21 CU 42-17 CU 48-20 CU 42-10 CU 45-20 CU
Wake 63-3 CU 38-17 CU 41-21 CU 31-16 CU 34-17 CU 45-17 CU 42-14 CU 38-16 CU
NCSU 41-7 CU 41-17 CU 41-20 CU 35-20 CU 35-17 CU 38-20 CU 31-28 CU 38-14 CU
Points - 9 7 7 16 9 9 7

* Points: 3 pts for best prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 2 pts for picking score exactly, 1 pt for picking the correct winner

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