In August, this Clemson FSU matchup was touted as the game of the year for both teams as well as college football in general. Even though the kickoff is at 8:22 PM, it is not the matchup that either team anticipated. Louisville has emerged as the second best team in the ACC, with a wide gap between them and the third team. Regardless, Clemson FSU is always an exciting matchup and each team must bring their A game if they want to win.
The Seminoles are facing some injury issues as superstar defensive back Derwin James will not be ready to play, Jesus “Bobo” Wilson will not play, and defensive back Nate Andrews is out for the year.
Dalvin Cook is the Seminoles’ best player, one of the best players in the nation, and arguably the best running back in the nation. He has not looked as dominant as he did last year due to a combination of offensive line issues and hesitancy due to shoulder injuries, but he must always be accounted for.
FSU’s interior offensive line is terrible – to put this into perspective FSU analyst Dakota Moyer tweeted that: “Dexter Lawrence [and the interior defensive line] … “is going to eat Eberle [FSU center]. Like full on cannibalism on national television.” Things don’t get much better for FSU because Clemson has a ferocious defensive line that is as deep as it is talented. The fact that Deondre Francois can hold onto the ball too long means compounds this problem even further.
Just because FSU has offensive line issues does not mean that Clemson can just walk into Doak Campbell and shut down the Seminole offense. Dalvin Cook is always a threat to cut up the sideline and take a run to the house, he can kill you in the receiving game, and he will take advantage of any mistake Clemson makes (remember the first touchdown run last year).
Deondre Francois is a very good freshman quarterback whom has thrown for ten touchdowns while only throwing three interceptions, or one per 73 attempts. He plays cautiously early on and becomes more aggressive as the game progresses. He is a second half quarterback, so Clemson will have to throw something new at him and continue to execute all throughout the game.
FSU’s defense is their weak link, and a combination of injuries and bad coaching has exposed their defense for all to see this year. They are ranked 75th against the pass, 59th against the run, and 75th in points against with 28.9 points per game. This is because a combination of injuries at important positions and bad coaching has caught up with the defense.
The dominant FSU teams’ defenses were managed primarily by Jeremy Pruitt, whom is one of the best DC’s in the country but never seems to stay long at one place and rumors of personal problems swirl around. Jeremy Pruitt took FSU’s talent and made it dominant, holding the 2013 Clemson Tigers to seven meaningful points. When Jeremy Pruitt left, Charles Kelly took over the defense and a slow decline has snowballed into a disaster this year.
FSU is good at defending one dimensional quarterbacks and offenses, proving that they are not a team of bad players. The problem comes when they are faced with an electric dual threat quarterback like Jackson or Watson because they cannot both contain the passing and the running threat. Lamar Jackson’s crazy game was a result of FSU not coaching their players how to defend the zone read, fast quarterbacks, and similar offensive philosophies.
Their defensive line can give Clemson’s offensive line some trouble and if they manage to make Clemson be one dimensional, then Clemson could struggle. Most of Clemson’s struggles have come against conservative ‘bend but don’t break’ defenses that force the Tigers to march down the field without making mistakes (which they have failed at. FSU seems incapable of following the above formula for beating Clemson due to an undisciplined defense and facing Deshaun Watson.
The facts, predictions, and pundits seem to place confidence in Clemson beating FSU soundly. But don’t let the popular narrative mislead you. The FSU Louisville game was a snowball disaster that does not reflect the quality of FSU’s team. FSU has a robust homefield advantage and their back is against the wall. Unpredictable things tend to happen when a team is cornered, let alone in their home stadium and at night.
Lastly, FSU is not a Wake Forest or Boston College. FSU has recruited just as well as Clemson has and their roster is littered with four and five stars. This is not a David vs Goliath match up, this is a battle of a Goliath whose struggles has cost them a game against one whom has struggled but is still undefeated.
Prediction: Clemson 38 FSU 20