TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With their bye week behind them, the No. 12 Florida State Seminoles return to action Saturday for a marquee matchup against the No. 3 Clemson Tigers. As usual, there’s plenty of hype surrounding the game and a lot on the line for each team. Here’s a look at the names, numbers and notes you need to know before the Seminoles take on the Tigers.
No. 12 Florida State (5-2, 2-2 ACC) vs. No. 3 Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC)
When/Where: Saturday, 8 p.m./Doak Campbell Stadium (79,560) in Tallahassee, Fla.
TV/Radio: ABC/Seminole IMG Radio Network; FSU Broadcast Live Stream
Florida State injury report:
Out For Game
WR Jesus Wilson (foot)
DE Keith Bryant (foot)
DB Derwin James (knee)
RB Johnathan Vickers (concussion)
Out For Season
DB Nate Andrews (right pectoral)
WR George Campbell (core muscle)
DE Adam Torres (leg)
Coach: Dabo Swinney (82-27 in nine seasons at Clemson)
Last game: The Tigers were on the brink of defeat until NC State missed what would have been a game-winning, 33-yard field goal as time expired. Clemson pulled ahead for a 24-17 victory in overtime that kept its College Football Playoff hopes alive.
Last game vs. Florida State: Dalvin Cook ran for 194 yards and a touchdown, but it wasn’t enough for FSU to overcome 304 total yards from Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in a 23-13 defeat at Death Valley on Nov. 8, 2015.
Clemson vs. Florida State all-time: FSU leads the all-time series 20-9 and is 12-3 against the Tigers in Tallahassee.
1970: FLORIDA STATE 38, Clemson 13
1975: Florida State 43, CLEMSON 7
1976: Clemson 15, FLORIDA STATE 12
1988: No. 10 Florida State 24, No. 3 CLEMSON 21
1989: No. 10 Clemson 34, No. 16 FLORIDA STATE 23
1992: No. 5 Florida State 24, No. 15 CLEMSON 20
1993: No. 1 FLORIDA STATE 57, No. 21 Clemson 0
1994: No. 10 FLORIDA STATE 17, Clemson 0
1995: No. 1 Florida State 45, CLEMSON 26
1996: No. 2 FLORIDA STATE 34, Clemson 3
1997: No. 5 Florida State 35, No. 15 CLEMSON 28
1998: No.6 FLORIDA STATE 48, Clemson 0
1999: No. 1 Florida State 17, Clemson 14
2000: No. 4 FLORIDA STATE 54, No. 10 Clemson 7
2001: No. 14 Florida State 41, No. 24 CLEMSON 27
2002: No. 11 FLORIDA STATE 48, Clemson 31
2003: CLEMSON 26, No. 3 Florida State 10
2004: No. 8 FLORIDA STATE 41, Clemson 22
2005: CLEMSON 35, No. 16 Florida State 14
2006: Clemson 27, No. 9 FLORIDA STATE 20
2007: CLEMSON 24, No. 19 Florida State 18
2008: No. 24 FLORIDA STATE 41, Clemson 27
2009: CLEMSON 40, Florida State 27
2010: FLORIDA STATE 16, Clemson 13
2011: No. 21 CLEMSON 35, No. 11 Florida State 30
2012: No. 4 FLORIDA STATE 49, No. 9 Clemson 37
2013: No. 5 Florida State 51, No. 3 CLEMSON 14
2014: No. 1 FLORIDA STATE 23, No. 22 Clemson 17 (OT)
2015: No. 1 CLEMSON 23, No. 16 Florida State 13
2016: No. 12 FLORIDA STATE vs. No. Clemson, Saturday, 8 p.m.
One offensive and defensive player from each team who could swing the game
Clemson: Receiver Mike Williams is one of the most physically gifted receivers the Seminoles will see this year, and he’s already garnered buzz as a potential first-rounder in next year’s NFL draft. The 6-3, 205-pound redshirt junior missed all of last season with an injury, but he’s since reestablished himself as Clemson’s top receiver with 39 catches for 578 yards and four touchdowns. He had one of his best games of the season – 12 catches for 146 yards and a TD – his last time out.
On the other side, defensive tackle Carlos Watkins will likely keep FSU’s offensive line busy for most of the night. The 6-3, 305-pound fifth-year senior was a preseason All-American and has so far lived up to the billing with 4.5 sacks, which is most on a team that ranks fourth nationally in total sacks.
Florida State: Wilson’s injury during the Wake Forest game led directly to an increase in action for sophomore receiver Auden Tate, and Tate responded with one of his better efforts of the season, posting two catches for 20 yards and a pretty 11-yard score in which he seemed to sail across the back of the end zone. Tate will likely have another big part to play, and he could be crucial in the red zone. The Seminoles score on 94 percent of their red zone trips – the ninth-best conversion percentage in the nation – but only 67 percent of those scores have been touchdowns. FSU will need to make its red zone trips count against Clemson, which means that Tate could see plenty of balls thrown his way.
Sophomore cornerback Tarvarus McFadden expects to see a lot of Clemson’s Williams, and he says he is prepared for the challenge. McFadden has shown a knack for making big plays, as he has five interceptions through just seven games this season. However, that hasn’t stopped opponents from targeting McFadden in the passing game (per Pro Football Focus, McFadden has been thrown at 30 times and allowed 15 completions this season). How he fares on Saturday could play a large part in FSU’s defensive success.
Total offense: FSU: 484.4 YPG (26th nationally); CU: 474.3 YPG (35th)
Scoring offense: FSU: 34.9 PPG (35th); CU: 36.6 PPG (26th)
Passing offense: FSU: 271.6 YPG (34th); CU: 304.9 YPG (18th)
Rushing offense: FSU: 212.9 YPG (33rd); CU: 169.4 (70th)
Total defense: FSU: 388.6 YPG (55th); CU: 298.6 YPG (8th)
Scoring defense: FSU: 28.9 PPG (75th); CU: 15.3 PPG (9th)
Passing defense: FSU: 233.4 YPG (75th); CU: 166.1 YPG (7th)
Rushing defense: FSU: 155.1 YPG (60th); CU: 132.43 YPG (34th)
Number of note, courtesy of Pro Football Focus: Quarterback Deondre Francois has been sacked 21 times this season, but, per PFF, Francois shares some responsibility with his offensive line. PFF credits Francois with four sacks allowed this season, suggesting that he needs to get rid of the ball more quickly. That’s especially true against a Clemson defense that has 25.0 sacks on the season, which is tied for fourth-most in the nation. (Incidentally, none of FSU’s offensive linemen have been credited with more than two sacks allowed.)
“The winner of this game has big implications not only in conference status but national championship contention. It’s become a very, very important rivalry not only in this league but in the country.” – FSU coach Jimbo Fisher on the significance of the FSU-Clemson series
“Well, there’s probably not many coaches out there that got a lot of wins in Tallahassee, that’s for sure. It’s a tough place. Tough place to play, and they usually got pretty good players that take a lot of pride in their performance.” – Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who has yet to win in Tallahassee since taking over in 2008. Swinney is 0-4 at Doak Campbell Stadium during that span.
“Our offense is better than we were last year, despite what y’all write.” – Swinney, to the media after suggestions that Clemson’s offense has struggled this season
“I think we should’ve won. We had so many opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on.” – Clemson QB Deshaun Watson on the Tigers’ last trip to Tallahassee
“We’re in the best position we want to be in. We’re right here, we’re 5-2, we’re 12 in the nation, we’re right where we want to be at. Right in the mix. But we’re not looking at any of that, what happened, you have games like that, the North Carolina game, the Louisville game, but you can’t look back. We’ve got to take that next step in the second half of the season and play some good football. I think guys will realize that.” – FSU RB Dalvin Cook on the team’s motivation for the rest of the season
“Early in the season they were a heavy pressure team. They did some different things and exotic things on third down. Now you see them playing a lot more base, kind of allowing their athletes to go out and play.” – Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott on FSU’s defensive improvements in the last few weeks
“We haven’t changed anything. We’re still running the same things that we have been running all year. It’s just that guys are finally doing what they are supposed to do, doing the little things, filling the right gaps that they have to fill. …Communication is the key.” – FSU cornerback Tarvarus McFadden on FSU’s defensive improvements in the last few weeks
Former linebacker and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Derrick Brooks will be honored during the game for his 2016 induction to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Former quarterback Charlie Ward will appear with ESPN’s Neil Everett on Langford Green from 5:30-7 p.m. as part of Nissan’s “Heisman House Tour,” and will be available to sign autographs.
Former defensive back and two-time All-American, and current FSU administrator Monk Bonasorte will serve as FSU’s honorary team captain.
Finally, a trio of recent Seminoles – Telvin Smith, Rashad Greene and Jalen Ramsey – will participate in this week’s edition of “Sod Talk,” which takes place at the Sod Cemetery 90 minutes before kickoff.
With Brooks set to be in attendance on Saturday, it seems like a great time to relive some of his accomplishments in Garnet and Gold – maybe even take a look at one that came at Clemson’s expense.
Brooks, of course, played a key role on FSU’s 1993 national championship team, and this scoop-and-score was part of a 57-0 thrashing of the No. 22 Tigers that helped set the tone for the rest of that season.
Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com details how Travis Rudolph’s act of kindness earlier this season struck a chord with Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware.
Ryan S. Clark of Warchant.com writes about the challenge presented by Clemson’s Mike Williams.
Safid Deen of the Orlando Sentinel writes that the Seminoles are hoping for a fast start on offense.
Jared Shanker writes that Clemson’s offensive line has more to worry about than just DeMarcus Walker.
In a similar vein, Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times takes a deeper look at Josh Sweat’s recovery from a knee injury suffered in high school.
Bob Ferrante of the Osceola analyzes how FSU’s Deondre Francois can take the next step in his development. Included are thoughts on Francois from ESPN analyst Brock Huard.
Brad Senkiw of the Anderson Independent Mail writes that Clemson’s defense is looking to adopt a ‘road-dog’ mentality.
Cornerback Marquez White said this week that Clemson is the best team FSU will have seen this season, which is obviously cause for concern for a team that already has two losses on the ledger.
But that’s not to say the Seminoles are bereft of hope. Far from it, actually. The Seminoles still boast the most dynamic running back in the game, and he showed last season that even a great Clemson defensive front is not enough to keep him fully in check.
Also in FSU’s favor is the game’s setting: The Tigers haven’t won at Doak Campbell Stadium since 2006, when Bobby and Tommy Bowden still patrolled the sidelines. Clemson has been star-crossed in Tallahassee ever since, with their most recent visit in 2014 perhaps the best example of it.
Yes, FSU dropped a home game a few weeks ago. But this will be the first night game hosted in Tallahassee this year, and the crowd will almost certainly be the most hostile that the Tigers have faced this year – and that includes a trip to Auburn in the season-opener.
If the atmosphere can throw off the Tigers, even by just a little bit, it could open a window for FSU’s upset bid. Beyond that, the Seminoles will need both their offensive line and their receivers to have their best games of the season. And, while understanding that containing Clemson’s offense is a tall task, the defense can help the cause by forcing a turnover or two and giving the FSU offense a chance to take advantage of some short fields. If they can do those, the Seminoles will have a good chance to knock off the Tigers and reassert their place in the ACC’s football hierarchy.