The Tigers are favored to extend the trend, while the underdog Seminoles are itching to spoil No. 2 Clemson’s undefeated season.
FSU (4-3, 2-3 ACC) hosts the Tigers (7-0, 4-0 ACC), who are seeking their fourth consecutive win over the Seminoles for the first time in series history. Kickoff at Doak Campbell Stadium is set for noon and the game will air on ABC.
“We have a great challenge in front of us here at home this Saturday versus the defending ACC champions, the Clemson Tigers, and what an opportunity for us,” FSU coach Willie Taggart said. “We’re really excited about it. More excited about it because we have it here at home and look forward to having the crowd there to help us this Saturday at noon. So go to bed early [Friday] night, fans.”
Clemson is stacked with talent on both sides of the football. The Tigers enter the week as the only program ranked in the top 10 nationally in total offense (522.4, ninth) and total defense (266.3, fourth).
The Tigers’ defensive line is arguably the best in the nation, with each player an NFL prospect standing at least 6-foot-4 and weighing more than 265 pounds.
“I think, for us, it’s not necessarily difficult to prepare because we have one of the top defensive lines in the country as well,” Taggart said of facing Clemson’s defensive line. “I think going against our guys daily helps our guys.”
Florida State’s defense is one of the best units at defending the run. Allowing only 100.4 yards per game, the Seminoles rank first in the ACC and eighth nationally in rushing defense.
Their biggest challenge of the year awaits them in Heisman trophy candidate Travis Etienne, one of the best backs in the nation. After seven games, the sophomore has rushed for 800 yards on 98 carries, averaging 8.2 yards per carry. Etienne’s 15 touchdowns are two is two more than he had all of last season.
“We’ve got to make sure we play great defense, great gap sound defense and do a great job of tackling,” Taggart said of defending the Clemson’s run game.
“We’re not going to necessarily change just because it’s Clemson, though. We’re going to play our defense and try to prepare our guys to play their very best against a talented football team and understand that we can’t make the mistakes we have been making and expect to beat a team like this.”
Texas A&M nearly upset Clemson in Week 2 with a pass-heavy attack. The Aggies threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns. Their run game fell quiet, adding just 71 yards, but the Aggies still nearly pulled off the upset during a 28-26 loss to the Tigers.
Florida State could replicate the Aggies’ offensive success, especially with Deondre Francois’ commanding arm. The redshirt junior leads the ACC in passing yards (1,859) and is responsible for 15 of the Seminoles’ 20 offensive touchdowns. He is No. 6 on FSU’s career 300-yard games list.
Clemson’s quarterback also is pushing to set records. Trevor Lawrence needs 291 yards to break Deshaun Watson’s mark for passing yards by a true freshman.
Beyond limiting the Tigers’ top playmakers, the Seminoles believe they need to feed off the crowd in order to win.
“[Protecting Doak Campbell Stadium], that’s super important,” FSU cornerback Stanford Samuels III said. “You never want to let somebody come into your house and do something crazy to you. We plan to come out and show out when it’s time to play.”