Everything from the dream of a national championship to the hopes of repeating as ACC champions will be on the line for Florida State on Saturday as the fifth-ranked Seminoles head to Clemson, South Carolina to face the third-ranked Clemson Tigers. The home team has won the last six in the series, but Florida State has not won at Clemson since 2001. Florida State comes in a perfect 5-0 while Clemson is also perfect at 6-0. The Seminoles are coming off of a bye week after their most impressive performance of the season, a 63-0 home shutout of #25 Maryland. Clemson struggled a week ago with a scrappy Boston College team, but rallied to win 24-14 with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns.
Clemson will be looking to improve to 7-0 for a second time in three years and to stay in the thick of the national championship race. The Seminoles will be looking for their first 6-0 start since 1999 and Florida State fans remember what happened that season. For the fourth time in seven trips to a place affectionately known as Death Valley, Florida State will be starting a freshman quarterback. While Clemson beat Florida State two years ago in FSU’s last visit to Memorial Stadium, the Seminoles managed to hand Clemson its only conference loss a season ago in Tallahassee. For Florida State to make it two straight over Clemson and collect its first win at Death Valley in 12 years, here are Saturday’s keys to Seminole success:
D is for discipline
Even during the glory years, the term “disciplined” has rarely been used to describe the Florida State defense. On Saturday however, against a Clemson team that puts a lot of different wrinkles in its offense, staying disciplined will be vital for the Seminoles. Clemson will use a lot of motion and talented receiver Sammy Watkins on screens, jet sweeps, reverses and as a decoy. It will be important for Florida State not get caught chasing the football or Watkins and stick to its defensive assignments. Ends and outside linebackers like Mario Edwards Jr., Chris Casher, Dan Hicks and Christian Jones will need to rush upfield rather than crashing down while freshman safety Jalen Ramsey must stick to his responsibilities over the top. Boston College had success rolling one way and throwing across the field against the Seminoles, but Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense is much more dangerous.
Jameis is famous, but the run needs to be fun
As good as Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston has been through five games, Florida State will need to be balanced to knock off Clemson on Saturday. The three-headed monster of Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams at tailback will need to combine to have a big night which will not only help move the chains, but keep Clemson’s potent offense of the field. In Florida State’s most recent victory over Maryland, the Seminoles won the time of possession battle for just the second time this season and they may need to do it again to get past the Tigers. In last season’s 49-37 win in Tallahassee, Florida State racked up 287 yards and five scores on the ground. Being able to run will also keep Clemson defensive end and the nation’s sack leader, Vic Beasley, from being able to simply speed-rush every play.
Stay alive early in Death Valley
With Saturday’s contest getting underway after 8:00 P.M. and ESPN’s College Gameday in town, the crowd for Clemson will certainly be a raucous one. For Florida State to have a shot, it will need to weather the early Death Valley storm and avoid falling too far behind. The Seminoles rallied from a 28-14 third quarter deficit last season, but that game was in Tallahassee and in Clemson, FSU may not be so lucky. In Florida State’s last trip to Clemson, the Seminoles fell behind by 11 at the break and despite winning the second half, came up on the short end of a 35-30 score. If Florida State can survive early, it should have an excellent shot at winning late.