Florida State at Clemson

Sports Xchange

November 08, 2017 at 3:17 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
TV: ABC
SERIES: Florida State leads 20-10. The Tigers won 37-34 in 2016.
RANKINGS: Clemson No. 4

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Seminoles

–RB Jacques Patrick was ruled out for the year before the trip to Boston College two weeks ago, then he had surgery and it appeared he was headed for rehab. But after a news report in the Orlando Sentinel that Patrick’s injury was not as bad as the team first feared, coach Jimbo Fisher confirmed it and said that Patrick probably would play against Clemson. Patrick has rushed for 452 yards.

–LB Matthew Thomas has had at least 10 tackles in four games this season and leads the team in tackles overall with 56 stops. His 15 tackles against Boston College tied a career high for the senior.

–DE Josh Sweat has been the Seminoles’ most consistent edge rusher, leading the team in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (10.5). Third on the team in tackles (43), the junior is one tackle for loss short of matching his single-season high of 11.5 in 2016.

Tigers

–RB Tavien Feaster may be hitting his stride. The sophomore, who has risen to the top of the Tigers’ depth chart at running back, posted the first 100-yard game of his career last week against N.C. State, including an 89-yard run that ranks as the longest by a Clemson player since 1993.

–WR Ray-Ray McCloud is inflicting damage all over the field of late. He played three plays at cornerback late in Clemson’s win last week and although he didn’t catch a pass, he returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown.

–DE Clelin Ferrell is coming off the best game of his career — 12 tackles, including five tackles for loss in the Tigers’ win at N.C. State. In last year’s win at Florida State, Ferrell had four tackles and two for loss, including a sack.

–DT Dexter Lawrence had five tackles, including a sack, in 39 plays last year at Florida State. He has 33 stops this season with 2.0 for losses (1.5 sacks).

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Florida State is having uncustomary struggles, thanks mostly to the season-ending injury to quarterback Deondre Francois in the season opener.

But Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is putting that aside as he prepares his fourth-ranked Tigers for Saturday’s contest at Memorial Stadium in Clemson. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

“We’ll get the very best version of Florida State this week,” Swinney said.

The issue is what is the best version of the Seminoles.

After losing quarterback Francois in the loss to Alabama, the Seminoles have floundered. They have lost three games by six points or less and are in jeopardy of missing a bowl game for the first time since coach Jimbo Fisher took over the program in 2010.

“I know Jimbo is probably incredibly frustrated simply because they’ve had some tough games, a quarterback who got hurt ,and they’ve had a lot of other injuries,” Swinney said. “They had three games come down to the last play of the game, and those things affect your momentum and confidence, but let me just tell you — this is a very talented team.”

Significantly, Swinney said his Tigers haven’t out-recruited Fisher and the Seminoles yet.

“They’ve got a bunch of cats who can play,” he said.

Traditionally, the game has determined the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division winner with either the Tigers or the Seminoles winning each of the last eight division titles.

This time only the Tigers (8-1, 6-1 ACC) will be looking to clinch the division for a third consecutive season and continue their quest for a third straight ACC Championship Game appearance. The Seminoles (3-5, 3-5 ACC) will be playing to keep their bowl hopes alive.

“It seems like one of us is always in the championship game,” Swinney said. “I’m sure when a lot of people looked at the schedule this year, they thought there was a good chance that it would come down to Clemson and Florida State.

“This time it’s really not different for us. Nothing has changed. It’s good to be in a situation where you control your own destiny.”

Led by quarterback Kelly Bryant, one of three Clemson players with more than 500 yards rushing, the Tigers have maintained a position among the nation’s elite despite the loss of star quarterback Deshaun Watson and a bevy of other standouts from last season’s national championship team.

A defense that returned eight starters once again ranks among the national leaders.

“You’re playing a great team on their home field,” Fisher said. “You better be ready to play a great game. There’s a lot on the line as far as pride things like that and how you want to be perceived.”

Florida State dominated the series for years, but the teams have split their last 10 meetings. Clemson has won the past two games.

“I felt this all along, even when we were winning those games, they were a tremendous program,” Fisher said. “We were just fortunate enough to make one more play. And lately, the last few years, they made one more play.

“It’s kind of nip and tuck. But they’ve done a great job in their commitment to things and their investment.”

Even if they lose to Clemson, the Seminoles can still finish 6-6 and keep their record 35-year bowl streak intact, thanks in large part to a soft closing schedule that includes Delaware State (1-8), punchless Florida (3-5) and a rescheduled game against Louisiana-Monroe (4-5) that originally was postponed by Hurricane Irma.

Freshman quarterback James Blackman, who was thrust into the starting role when Francois went down, has had his good and bad moments, and freshman running back Cam Akers is coming off a 199-yard game in the Seminoles’ 27-24 win against Syracuse last week.

The Seminoles also may get a boost from the expected return of running back Jacques Patrick, who was injured last month but has recovered quickly.

“We know what we’re capable of,” Florida State cornerback Levonta Taylor said. “We’re finding ourselves right now, and we can be a very dangerous team going forward.”

He doesn’t have to convince Swinney of that.

“They’re big and strong and athletic, with speed everywhere,” Swinney said. “These are the biggest wideouts we’ll face. Those guys are huge on the perimeter. The quarterback has gotten better. He’s a young player, very talented, and he can throw the ball down the field.”

 

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