By Scott Carswell Jr.
On Saturday at noon the Seminoles will take on the Clemson Tigers on ABC.
Clemson is number two in the AP poll and are leading the ACC Atlantic. They are undefeated at 7-0 with victories over Furman, Texas A&M, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Wake Forest and North Carolina State.
Clemson won the game last year 31-14. FSU was down by three with six minutes to go on the Clemson side of the field but James Blackman was intercepted cutting the Seminoles rally just short. While running the clock out Clemson scored two rushing touchdowns.
The last time Florida State beat Clemson was in Doak Campbell Stadium during the 2014 season. That was the game that Sean Maguire filled in for the suspended James Winston. Running back Karlos Williams scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime to give the Seminoles the 23-17 victory. Clemson has since reeled off three straight wins in the series.
Observations from the wake forest game
Francois looked healthy and rejuvenated. He still missed a couple throws and is still learning the offense but continued to get better in the new system. The throw he made to Tamarrion Terry on the touchdown that was called back in the second quarter was the best release made he has made all season.
Joshua Kaindoh was ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter and will miss the first half of the Clemson the game.
Wake Forest ran 104 plays on Saturday. It was impressive to me to see the adjustments made on the defensive side to make the Demon Deacon offense come to almost a complete stop. The conditioning of the team was evident, as they only got stronger as the game went on even as the plays were piling up.
The rushing attack is still trying to find its footing, but when Akers and Patrick carried the ball on first down and on non-obvious rushing downs the offensive line was able to get the backs some holes.
Florida State offense versus Clemson defense
The matchup that will be talked about all week will be the offensive line versus the super talented Clemson defensive line. Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant are the starting ends. Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence are the starting defensive tackles. Wilkins, Lawrence and Ferrell are expected to go in the first round of the NFL draft. This is bad news for the FSU offensive line, they are still trying to find the right line up. The lineup from the Wake Forest game will be used for the second game in a row. They did a decent job last Saturday but an injury to one of the tackles, Derrick Kelly or Brady Scott, will make it an even longer day for Francois.
The Clemson linebackers are solid tacklers and are experienced enough to not make very many mistakes. The secondary for the Tigers has had some growing pains this season and for FSU to have success it will most likely come through the air by attacking the young safeties. The past couple weeks they have really found their groove as they have only given up 10 points in the last two games. FSU explosive receiver Terry will still be looked at for big plays even though the Tigers defensive backs are big and physical. Receivers that I expect to have the most production are the quick guys like Noonie Murray, DJ Matthews and Tre’Shaun Harrison. Using the pass to set up the run is what really changed the offense’s production in last week’s game so I believe that Coach Taggart will try to use this plan of attack early.
Florida State defense versus Clemson offense
Clemson is 7th in the nation in rushing on the season. So the strength of the FSU defense will be tested against Travis Etienne and the Tiger rushing attack. Nationally Etienne is tied for 1st in rushing touchdowns and is 10th in rushing yards with 800. He scored three rushing touchdowns against NC State, but was held to only 36 yards. The Clemson offensive line is talented, massive and experienced with three juniors and two seniors. This is easily the best offensive line the Seminoles have gone up against all season.
Don’t forget about quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running backs Adam Choice and Tavien Feaster’s ability to make plays in the run game as well. Keeping Demarcus Christmas, Marvin Wilson and Fred Jones on the field will be vital to Florida State’s success.
With all the talk about the Clemson line I don’t think the Seminole D-line gets as credit much as they should. The Seminole defense has 25 sacks this season, which is 4 ½ more than the Tigers. Brian Burns has been playing incredible football since the start of conference play and is currently 2nd in the FBS with 9 sacks. These are some impressive numbers, but the different blitzes run by defensive coordinator Harlan Barnett have provided a nice boost to the pass rush and that trend will continue against the true freshman quarterback. These blitzes have to get home or else Lawrence will be able to take the ‘Noles apart. When Lawrence has time he will try to throw bombs down field to Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. When he is pressured he will go to veteran safety valve Hunter Renfrow. Once again the pressure will be on the young safeties to play beyond their years.
Ricky Agauyo has been erratic this season but does seem a little more comfortable at home. Logan Tyler has been great the past three games raising his average to 43.3 yards per punt but it is still peculiar to me how much teams do not pressure him with how much struggles against pressure.
Clemson’s kicker Grant Huegel has been decent this season going 7/10. Clemson’s punter Will Spiers is averaging 40 yards per punt. Clemson always has solid athletes in the return game but DJ Matthews has been in a zone returning punts. With the way Florida State has been playing special teams I think the Garnet and Gold has a slight advantage.
Florida State has to avoid three and outs and giving up big passing plays in the first quarter or it can get ugly quickly. I think the Seminoles will do well at avoiding those mistakes early to keep it close going into the second half. The Tigers stifling defense and constant rushing attack will eventually break the home team down in the fourth quarter. It will be within 10 points or so going into the final quarter but a short field set up by the defense will help Clemson get a touchdown that will seal the game. I think the Seminoles will fall 30-16.
A Tallahassee Sports Legend has passed
Prof. Roosevelt Wilson passed away this last Sunday. While at FAMU he was athletic director, sports information director and journalism professor. His son Vaughn Wilson, the current FAMU sports information director, is one of my great friends and he has helped me learn the nuances of sports journalism. So no doubt some of Prof. Wilson’s expertise has rubbed off on me. He was a great man, Rattler and Tallahasseean.
The Rattlers and new coach Willie Simmons are 5-2 overall including 4-0 in the MEAC. Directed by junior quarterback Ryan Stanley FAMU is playing fast, physical and disciplined football. This Saturday at 4 PM in Bragg Memorial Stadium the Orange and Green look to stretch their winning streak to five games against Morgan State. Come on Rattlers strike, strike and strike again for the Wilson family.