HELLLLLOOOOOOO, CLEMSON FANS! Well, the regular season is nearly halfway through, and we have a surprise for the latter part of the 2019 season: we’ll be reviving our weekly previews and recaps for Clemson Tigers games!
Starting this week, we’ll be following along with all of the action from the defending national champions.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s. Get. Into it…
(2)Clemson vs. Florida State
Saturday, October 12 | 3:30PM EST
ESPN Spread: Clemson -27
ABOUT THE FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
- 3-2 (2-1 in the ACC), 45th in the SP+
- Second year under Willie Taggart, and the rebuild continues to hit a few speed bumps
- Offense has been inconsistent, but has talent - and at their best is incredibly explosive
- Defense really struggles against the pass, which is bad news against Clemson
Of all the teams I’ve followed over the past few years, Florida State has been, bar none, one of the absolute strangest.
Beginning in 2017, they were ranked 3rd in the country - and many thought their opening weekend match-up with Alabama would be a national title preview.
Well, that didn’t happen; Florida lost that game plus five more that season, ended up unranked - and two years later Willie Taggart is still picking up the pieces of the program.
To call Taggart’s first year in Tallahassee a disappointment last year would be a misnomer; it’s unclear how many people expected the Seminoles to be among the nation’s contenders last year. But it certainly didn’t live up to what many thought would happen - and nearly losing to Samford in week two en route to a 5-7 season certainly had many trying to leave the year behind even before it was over.
Which brings us to this season for the Noles where things are… well they’re certainly something.
At 3-2, they lost to Boise State to open the season, then beat Louisiana-Monroe by one… but then rattled off a nice three week stretch that included victories over Louisville and North Carolina State, along with only having lost to Virginia by a touchdown. Most years, that start to the year would be unacceptable for the FSU fan base - but these are strange times, folks.
And that brings us to this weekend, when the Seminoles will arrive in Death Valley as three touchdown underdogs, hoping to pull off a massive upset - and take a major step in their rebuild process.
It’s impossible to talk about the FSU offense without starting with the offensive line - which has been terrible the last few years, and which is, in 2019… not much better. They rank 125th in sacks allowed per game at 3.8, and 128th in tackles for a loss allowed per game at a staggering 9.6. Yikes.
It’s made especially frustrating because there’s genuine talent at the skill positions for the Noles. RB Cam Akers is unquestionably the best player on the offensive roster - and after taking a significant step back amidst the craziness of 2018, he’s played well this season with 582 yards, 5.1 yards per carry and seven touchdowns.
At QB, the situation is a bit unclear. James Blackmon has been the starter for the most part this season, but he’s been out for the previous few games with an injury, leaving former Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook at the helm. Hornibook has played well enough during his time under center this season, and is by far the more consistent player of the two - having amassed over 5,400 yards and 47 touchdowns during his three years in Madison. But even as he’s the more consistent between the two of them, he’s also struggled with interceptions, posting 47 career TDs at Wisconsin to 33 interceptions. He hasn’t, however, thrown any picks during his time in Tallahassee - which has helped him lead FSU to wins over Louisville and North Carolina State.
Still, Florida State is playing for the future right now, and the future is sophomore James Blackmon - whose has a fantastic arm and is able to provide big play opportunities for Florida State in a way that Hornibook is simply unable to. Like Hornibook, he’s struggled with consistency (posting 19 TDs to 11 INTs his freshman year), but in 2019 he’s thrived when healthy - throwing a nearly 70% completion rate for 970 yards and nine touchdowns to just two interceptions.
If he’s healthy, Clemson will need to respect the big play. More on this later…
There’s good news and bad news for the Florida State defense:
The good news is that there’s signs of life from a team that really struggled to stop… well… anyone a year ago. Tackles Marvin Wilson and Cory Durden have combined for 6.5 sacks and eight tackles for a loss thus far this season, and giving up 144 yards per game on the ground lands them middle of the road at 59th in the nation.
Linebacker Amari Gainer has emerged as a bright spot for the future of this defense, and he was particularly fantastic in the Seminoles win over NC State, getting nine total tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks on the day.
Now, the bad news: Florida State’s passing defense has been atrocious. I mean… bad, folks. They’re giving up over 300 yards through the air per game (121st in the country), though they have 20 passes broken up (45th) and four interceptions thus far (T-66th). That’s the sign of a secondary that will take some shots at havoc plays… but their overaggressiveness tends to be their downfall - bad news against the types of receivers Clemson will be bringing to town.
Keys for the Tigers
Limit the big plays
There’s really only one way Florida State wins a game in which they’ll be outmuscled on the line of scrimmage by one of the nation’s top defensive lines, and in which they’ll likely be allowing points at will to Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers: taking their shots deep.
Make no mistake, Blackman has a canon, and if the Clemson defense shows any rust at all coming out of the bye week - watch out. Florida State could find themselves with some much needed momentum coming off of two straight wins.
Look for Clemson to limit the amount of blitzes they come with; my guess is that they’ll just let the big fellas up front win their battles with this Florida State offensive line, and make sure that Blackman has nowhere to throw when the pressure comes. Then, if he does go deep, Clemson’s secondary will no doubt be waiting to make a big play.
What Will Happen
This one will be over in a hurry, folks.
Florida State is on their way back to national prominence, but against a rested Clemson team with something to prove following their scare with the Tar Heels - they won’t begin that road back tomorrow in Death Valley.
Tigers roll, folks. Enjoy the game!
The Tigers’ season is halfway gone, if you’re planning on your trip… now is the time to book!
We still have plenty of amazing vacation rentals in Clemson for the 2019 season, but you’re running out of time! Click below right now to find your perfect game day getaway now…