Following a hard-fought and much tighter battle than anticipated, FSU can now turn its full focus on Clemson. The Noles face their second big test of the season on the road in Death Valley, noon ET on ABC. Next to the LSU matchup, this one has been the most anticipated on the schedule. Both fans and players alike have had this huge game circled since early in the preseason.
The result last weekend was a narrow one: a 31-29 win on the road against Boston College. With the aid of 18 Eagles penalties committed, the Seminoles survived a scare and escaped. That surprisingly narrow margin of victory over an inferior Boston College squad makes things very intriguing this weekend.
The Clemson Tigers are 2-1 on the season and are coming off a 48 to 14 shellacking of FAU. Their offensive identity appeared to mold more into form. The overall team attitude took on more of a semblance of what the country is used to seeing out of this program. Prior to that, they beat an outmatched Charleston Southern squad 66 to 17. Clemson opened the season with an upset loss at Duke, 28 to 7. Last year, the Tigers survived in Tallahassee, 34 to 28.
Offensively, the Tigers and Seminoles have posted very similar numbers thus far. FSU is averaging 466 yards per game, while Clemson is just ahead in the ACC with 489.3. The Tigers are extremely balanced, averaging 272.2 yards per game through the air and an impressive 216.7 on the ground.
Clemson has been a defensive juggernaut in the early going. With only 246.7 total yards allowed per game, this defense is the second-best in the conference.
Areas to Improve:
Offensively, it was not a good outing for the Seminoles last weekend. In the two games prior, the offense was scoring seemingly at will, averaging 55.5 points per game and 524 total yards per game. Against Boston College, the offense only managed to post 350 total yards. Was this an anomaly due to dreary weather conditions? Was it due to the sudden transition from contests played in the home state to the northeastern shift? The first morning game of the season had the players off to a sluggish start. Whatever the case may be, that type of performance will simply not get it done against a much more talented and well-coached Clemson team.
The Florida State defense was efficient at the point of attack, racking up ten tackles for loss. However, they’ll have to improve in understanding gap assignments and not look lackadaisical in giving up too much space. BC out-gained the Noles by over 100 yards with 457. They also dominated the time-of-possession stat with 7 minutes and 40 seconds more than FSU. This young and dangerous Clemson offense could heat up quickly if FSU comes out performing similarly.
Perhaps the biggest area of concern was the lack of discipline coming in the form of turnovers. In the first two games, offensive execution seemed sharper and the defense more aggressive, tallying a +2 turnover margin. Against the Eagles, that figure completely shifted to a -1 margin. Specifically, the running back room was to blame. The top two options, Trey Benson and Lawrance Toafili each lost a fumble. Wide receiver Keon Coleman, himself having a tough game, almost lost a fumble, as well. Everything just seemed very sloppy and out of sync. Momentum shifts via the turnover battle will be crucial in determining who comes out on top in this game. If Florida State can’t hang onto the ball and loses the turnover battle in that environment, it could spell trouble. Especially against an intense Clemson defense that forced four Owl turnovers last weekend.
Players to Watch:
For all the areas in which the Seminoles struggled, one has to commend them for their display of resiliency; coming through when faced with adversity. This can especially be said for Travis, who had a somewhat pedestrian stat line for a player of his caliber. He finished an efficient but non-flashy 15 of 24 for 222 yards and two touchdowns. What really stood out was his toughness. In a comforting sight for Seminole faithful, Travis returned to the game and certified the win following getting banged up and knocked to the turf. His health status coming into this game is definitely a concern, though. How close to 100% will he be? Will he be able to suit up and start this game?
WR Keon Coleman
After a quick start to 2023, Coleman had an abysmal game last weekend. He was locked up throughout most of the contest, not even recording a catch. Jordan Travis primarily targeted Johnny Wilson, and rightfully so. He created separation and made huge chunk plays down the sideline and over the middle. Wilson finished with 105 yards on only four receptions, coming up huge regarding field position advantage. Despite recent trouble with drops, he’s now the team’s leading receiver. Coleman appears to be flying under the radar a bit. Just like in the LSU game, he may just be the X-factor the team needs to have the breakout game for the offense.
QB Cade Klubnik
Last week, one of the big keys to the game was the Seminoles’ ability to contain BC’s dynamic quarterback Thomas Castellanos. They had a tough time in attempting to check off that box. Castellanos collected 400 yards by himself through both the air and on the ground. Here comes yet another lethal dual-threat playcaller in budding star Cade Klubnik. He’s actually put up similar numbers to Jordan Travis, though not quite as gaudy: 66.4% completion percentage, 693 yards, eight touchdowns, and only two interceptions. He’s also third on the Tigers with 23 carries, resulting in 63 yards and a touchdown. It is vital for the FSU defense to contain Klubnik if they hope to get out of South Carolina victorious. If not, Klubnik can make you pay and get the ball out to his playmakers in space, such as leading receiver, junior Beaux Collins. Of course, you can’t forget about Clemson’s versatile do-it-all back out of the backfield in Will Shipley, who is a matchup nightmare.
This exciting matchup should be near or at the top of your watchlist in a Week Four stacked with an elite slate of games. The deepest Florida State team since 2013 against a Clemson team that has looked vastly improved the past two weeks. Not to mention a sold-out raucous atmosphere; one of the most intimidating environments in college football. FSU looked up to the task when they dismantled LSU in their high-stakes Week One matchup. Look for them to play to the occasion and perform up to standard again here. Look for the Noles offensive game plan to focus primarily on the passing game. Jordan Travis’ use of his legs can be the key component. This can keep the Clemson defense on their toes and lead to his strong suit in executing the play-action. The Noles defensive line will ramp up the pressure and cause a couple of Clemson miscues late in the second-half to shift momentum. Clemson currently holds a seven-game winning streak over FSU, dating back to 2015. This year is the program’s golden opportunity to end that streak. Once again, the Seminoles can prove they belong among the sport’s Playoff contenders.
FSU 31, Clemson 27
Photo courtesy: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports