Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 23, 2018 at 9:17 pm.

Seminoles have chance to spoil Clemson’s perfect season

After starting the season ranked No. 19 in the nation, many figured Florida State’s Week 9 showdown with No. 2 Clemson at Doak Campbell Stadium would be a perfect candidate for ESPN’s GameDay selection in a prime-time spotlight.

Instead, thanks to the Seminoles’ 4-3 start and tumble out of the Top 25 weeks ago, the usually highly anticipated ACC showdown is set for a noon kickoff — and it’s nowhere close to the biggest game of the weekend.

Still, Florida State could make big headlines with a win against the Tigers (7-0 overall, 4-0 ACC).

“We have a great challenge in front of us here at home this Saturday versus the defending ACC champions. What an opportunity for us,” FSU coach Willie Taggart said.

“We’re really excited about it. More excited about it because we have it here at home and look forward to having the crowd there to help us this Saturday at noon. So go to bed early at night, fans. Make sure you’re there nice and early.”

At 2-3 in the conference, Florida State’s shot to win the ACC this year is long gone. But the Seminoles could play spoiler to the Tigers’ perfect season and bid for the ACC Atlantic Division crown. Of course, that means stopping Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the 6-foot-6 freshman phenom who played his way into the starting job over last year’s starter, Kelly Bryant — who then abruptly left the program as soon as Lawrence was given the reins.

Taggart was asked Monday how he’ll plan for Lawrence and Clemson, which has the No. 2 scoring offense in the ACC at 42 points a game.

Taggart’s answer? Bring the heat.

“(Trevor is) the real deal. The kid can make all the throws. You can see what everyone was talking about when they talk about Trevor. He’s a heck of a talent,” Taggart said.

“You got to get to him. That’s the thing, you can get to him, I think that’s the only way you beat guys like that, you got to get to him so he can’t make all the throws that he’s capable of making. Because he has some talented receivers out there; you see when he’s in there their offense becomes a lot more explosive now.

“So big challenge for our defense. Best quarterback they have faced this season and I know that they will be up for it.”

Clemson better be ready for Florida State’s quarterback, too. Because Deondre Francois is coming off arguably his best game of the season last week against Wake Forest.

Francois was named the ACC’s Quarterback of the Week on Monday after going 29 of 40 for 353 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 38-17 win against the Demon Deacons. Francois leads the conference in passing (1,859 yards), while ranking second in the ACC in two other categories through seven weeks: touchdown passes (13) and yards per game (265.6).

Chasing Lawrence all day long Saturday will be Florida State defensive lineman Brian Burns, who — like Francois — also earned accolades from the ACC on Monday. Burns earned ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week following two sacks against Wake Forest, raising his total to nine on the season (which ranks him second in the FBS).

Taggart said Burns is the unquestioned leader of the defense this year, and if there’s ever a time to lead, it’s this week against the Tigers.

“Brian is one of those guys, he leads by example,” Taggart said.

“He’s one of those guys that’s going to give you a hundred percent at everything he does. He’s not going to complain about anything, he’s a kid that hasn’t missed not one practice since I’ve been here. It’s great to have one of those guys on your team as a pass rusher and not going against you.”

The matchup with Clemson begins a brutal stretch to the second half of Florida State’s season. After Clemson are three more Top 25 opponents — trips to No. 22 North Carolina State and No. 3 Notre Dame and then at home against No. 9 Florida to close out the regular season.