Watch it: FSU coach Willie Taggart talks increased confidence
Wayne McGahee III, Tallahassee Democrat
Florida State will have its hands full with the Clemson Tigers Saturday.
The Seminoles have the unenviable task of trying to knock off the No. 2 Tigers, who seem well on their way to a fourth consecutive College Football Playoff appearance.
FSU leads the all-time series over Clemson 20-11, but the Tigers have won each of the last three matchups.
Another Clemson win this year would make this the longest winning streak by the Tigers in the history of the rivalry.
The Tigers are currently favored by 17 points, the most FSU has been an underdog by at home in over 30 years.
Why Florida State will win
Like we thought was the case when FSU traveled to Miami three weeks ago, a lot is going to have to go right for the Seminoles to pull off the upset.
For one, they’re going to have to improve further on the ground. The Seminoles rushed for over 100 yards for the first time in ACC play last week against Wake Forest.
Against a Clemson defense that allows 2.58 yards per rush, that’s no easy task, but it’s a necessity as a one-dimensional FSU offense will not be enough.
FSU’s defensive line will also need to create pressure and effect Clemson’s true freshman quarterback, Trevor Lawrence. The Seminoles have 25 sacks this season, but Clemson has allowed just 12.
Why Clemson will win
One major positional matchup gives the Tigers a huge advantage in the trenches.
Clemson’s all-worldly defensive line should have its way with an FSU offensive line that — while improving — is nowhere near ready for the challenge it will be presented with.
The Tigers get pressure on nearly half of the opposing team’s dropbacks and should be in Deondre Francois’ face all afternoon.
On the other side of the ball, FSU will likely sell out to stop Travis Etienne and Clemson’s rushing attack.
If he’s able to handle the pressure, Lawrence has the arm talent to take advantage of this where a few other quarterbacks FSU has faced were not.
Stat of the Game
Clemson has allowed opponents to rush for three-plus yards per carry just twice this season. No opponent has rushed for more than 3.43 yards per carry.
FSU has rushed for three-plus yards per carry in just two of its six games against FBS opponents this season and surpassed 3.43 yards per carry in one of those six games.
The game is being broadcast on ABC at 12 p.m. with the radio broadcast on 103.1 FM locally and on FSU affiliates across the state.
Key to the Game
The key for the Seminoles to keep this close on top of running the ball is to pressure Lawrence.
Since he was named the full-time starter four weeks ago, his road games have been at Georgia Tech and at Wake Forest.
If the FSU fans create the hostile road environment Willie Taggart has been pushing for, it will be the toughest place he’s played in without an experienced co-quarterback.
In the toughest environment he’s played in so far, Lawrence completed five of nine passes for 93 yards and a touchdown at Texas A&M.
It wasn’t Lawrence, but Kelly Bryant — no longer with the team — who won the Tigers that game.
I’m not bold enough to pick the upset here, but I will say that I think this one will be closer than the experts think, to channel FSU legend Lee Corso.
I buy into the belief that Lawrence hasn’t played in a road environment like this since he was named the starter and that it will affect him, at least early on.
Etienne is due for a long run on a weekly basis, but I believe FSU’s stout run defense bottles him up for the most part.
Although I see FSU able to keep it close for two to three quarters, I just think Clemson’s defensive line will limit what the Seminoles are able to do offensively.
Give me Clemson winning 28-17.
Wayne McGahee III
This is a tough match-up for FSU with Clemson’s biggest strengths lining up well with the Seminoles’ biggest weaknesses.
I don’t think FSU will be able to move the ball consistently enough to keep up with Clemson’s high-powered offense and that’s going to put a lot of pressure on FSU’s defense.
I think it will be close in the first half, but I think the defense is going to run out of gas in the second half because they’re going to be on the field so much and the game’s going to get out of control.
I have Clemson winning 38-17.
Florida State vs. No. 2 Clemson
When: Saturday, 12 p.m.
Where: Doak Campbell Stadium
TV/Radio: ABC/103.1 FM