Football Preview: Clemson at Florida State

Clemson

CLEMSON, S.C. (WSPA) – Trevor Lawrence will make his return to the lineup Saturday when the Clemson Tigers take on the Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee. 

Clemson

For the first time in 37 games the Clemson Tigers will be looking to bounce back from a loss. After falling to Notre Dame 47-40 last week, Clemson now prepares for a 2-6 Seminoles team. And they’ll make their trip to the sunshine state with Trevor Lawrence, who missed the past two games due to COVID-19. 

Lawrence is primed to feast on a floundering Florida State team that is riding a three-game losing streak while allowing over 36 points per game. 

Prior to his absence, Lawrence had thrown his first two interceptions of the season in back to back games, but also tossed seven touchdowns in that span as the Tigers went on to defeat Georgia Tech and Syracuse. D.J. Uiagaleilei filled in admirably for Lawrence over the last two weeks despite the team’s close loss to the Irish. Head Coach Dabo Swinney and Lawrence discussed the quarterback’s return below:

Travis Etienne has been his typical self, not much to note here that hasn’t been covered already. Amari Rodgers continues to pace the team as the primary target while Cornell Powell has emerged as a formidable big play threat. In the last two games Powell has produced a 17-266-1 line, and will likely see an expanded role as the season continues. 

Meanwhile Baylon Spector and Jake Venables have been consistent producers in the second level, playing stout defense against the run and pressuring the quarterback. Safety Joseph Charleston has seen more playing time and has capably filled that role, racking up seven tackles in each of the past two games. Nyles Pinckney, Bryan Bresee and K.J. Henry have been great on the line. They’ll be chomping at the bit as they get to face an offense that’s allowed 28 sacks this season. 

Florida State 

Florida State has been dismal, to put it mildly, save a win over Jacksonville State and an upset over North Carolina. A big reason for the Seminoles’ 2-6 record has been the play of their quarterbacks. Four different QB’s have started for FSU, amounting to eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions. 

After turning to freshman Chubba Purdy last week, they’ll be going back to Jordan Travis (#13) after Purdy suffered an injury last week. Travis was the team’s previous starter before having to miss time due to injury himself. Travis has completed 59 of 113 passes for 864 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions this season. He has, however, added a lot on the ground. In seven games he’s recorded 472 yards rushing and six touchdowns. He has more rush attempts than he has completed passes. His legs were a big factor in the team’s upset win over the Tar Heels in which Travis ran for over one hundred yards and two scores. The Tigers have faced some mobile quarterbacks this season, but none as committed to it (outside of The Citadel, of course) as Travis. You can expect the Clemson front seven to be a busy group on Saturday. 

Much like they have with quarterbacks this season, Clemson has utilized several running backs in the ground game. After Travis, who is the team’s leading rusher, La’Damian Webb (#8) comes in next in the pecking order. The sophomore has 366 yards and four touchdowns this season. Right behind him is Jashaun Corbin (#00) with 329 yards and two scores. And finally Lawrance Toafili (#9) has added 239 yards and a touchdown as well. There are a lot of moving pieces in this offense with plenty of different athletes to pay attention to. There’s no doubt their run game has been the most effective as they’ve averaged 184 yards per game at 4.8 yards per carry. Corbin is the most likely to be used out of the backfield as a receiver, but none of the running backs have over one hundred yards receiving this season. 

Ontaria Wilson (#80) is the top target. He has 248 yards a couple scores. And tight end Camren McDonald (#87) is used often in the passing game as well. But there aren’t any major threats on the outside. 

The defense has taken a lot of hits this year, and they recently lost defensive tackle Marvin Wilson for the season. Robert Cooper (#91) is a huge body to move on the interior at 6’2”, 332 pounds. He’s a quality run stuffer, and that’s contributed to their efforts at limiting big plays on the ground. That being said, they are still surrendering nearly two hundred yards rushing per game. 

They’ve been torched through the air as well to the tune of over 270 yards per contest. And as if it couldn’t get any more favorable for the Tigers, FSU is allowing opposing offenses to convert 48% of their third downs. They do, however, have one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Asante Samuel Jr. (#26). But he highlights an otherwise underperforming unit as a whole. 

Matchup

This matchup is rife for a big showing in Trevor Lawrence’s return to action. With how poorly FSU has played defensively, it’s not surprising the Tigers come in as 36-point favorites. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Clemson will be completely shutting down all of the Seminole’s runners. But even so, there doesn’t appear to be much of a threat for what would be a major upset on Saturday. 

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