Who would have predicted coming into this season that FSU vs Clemson could be a culture-shifting game? The Seminoles will roll into Death Valley Saturday with three straight wins, and the Tigers on the other hand have lost two of its last five. Both teams have a record of 3-2 respectively in the last five games while the 'Noles are considered to be trending upward the Tigers are trending downward.
Injuries and subpar quarterback play out of the Tigers have seen them fall out of the top 25. A program that was considered a juggernaut is now facing challenges many didn’t see happening this season. Can Florida State pull off the upset and bring Goliath down? We will find out this week when the Seminoles (3-4) travel to South Carolina to face the Clemson Tigers (4-3) at 3:30 pm EST on ESPN. Here are three keys to watch for as the 'Noles look to stay without blemish in October.
1. Special Teams/ Field Position
This game features two offenses that have been inconsistent throughout the season. Short fields will go a long way in determining which team wins the game. That brings me to the special teams’ unit. FSU's special teams have been erratic this season but the punting and kicking game has been solid as of late. Kick return and punt return units have been pretty bad recently pinning the offense back in numerous situations. The Tigers still have a good defense so giving the offense shorter fields to work with will benefit the Seminoles greatly.
Rushing Attack vs Clemson Defense
The identity of the FSU offense is the running game. Quarterback Jordan Travis, running backs Jashaun Corbin and Treshaun Ward have been great this season. The Seminoles rushed for 365 yards vs UMASS last weekend and hope to continue the same success against the toughest test yet so far this season.
Clemson gives up 120 yards per game on the ground which stands at 29th in the country. The crazy stat to me is the Tigers defense only giving up TWO rushing touchdowns on the season! This will be a strength-on-strength matchup and if the 'Noles want to win this one, establishing the ground game will be pivotal.
Passing Attack vs Clemson Defense
I have no doubt Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables will send pressure early and often. Expect eight in the box and man to man across the field. Forcing quarterback Jordan Travis and the receivers to make plays on the ball in must-pass situations. The passing game of late has been better but, has been set up by a great running game. If that’s taken away, will we still be able to see some success from the FSU offense? Tight end Cam McDonald should have a chance to make a few plays down the seam.
An area where the Clemson defense has struggled this season giving up some big plays. I’m not saying Travis must throw for 300 yards to win but timely passes and keeping the defense honest will be key for Florida State to pull off the upset.
Let's not get too ahead of ourselves 'Noles fans. Even though Clemson is struggling they still have some athletes on the sidelines and if FSU isn’t focused this game could be over quickly. I expect this to be a close game and regardless of who wins, Florida State competing with Clemson this season is more than what we could ask for. A win this weekend will be looked at as a program-changing win for head coach Mike Norvell and co. If the Seminoles have a pulse on offense and win the special teams/field position battle expect the good guys in Tallahassee to remain undefeated in October.
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