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Tigers’ test will be hard to pass, so what lessons will be learned?

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The prospects for a Florida State win over Clemson on Saturday are not good (if we are being honest). They weren’t good two weeks ago when FSU had several key starters still healthy or on the roster and the chance of a win over the nation’s fourth-ranked college football team haven’t gotten any better over the last two weeks. Last week, FSU saw quarterback James Blackman and wide receiver Tamorrion Terry announce they were ending their playing days in Tallahassee effective immediately. It also brought about the announcement its most talent defensive player, Marvin Wilson, had been lost for the season due to injury as was starting offensive lineman Devontay Love-Taylor.

Coach Mike Norvell announced this week that quarterback Chubba Purdy, who started at NC State, was lost for the year due to complications from an operation he had on his collarbone this preseason. After that defensive tackle Cory Durden announced he was opting out of the remaining three games of the season and it isn’t known whether he will choose to stay with the program or enter the transfer portal (he said he will not enter the NFL draft). And that’s just what we know heading into the game.

What we don’t know exactly is that status of quarterback Jordan Travis, who Norvell described as being “active” in practice earlier in the week. We also don’t whether he or the only other remaining healthy, and I use that term loosely, scholarship quarterback, Tate Rodemaker, will start or even how much either will play. We also don’t know who would be the emergency third quarterback if it came to that. It could be Wyatt Rector or one or more of the running backs lining up in the Wildcat formation.

All of that has left FSU’s roster razor thin, extremely young and very inexperienced. It’s dwindling roster size and its performance that has resulted in a 2-6 record are among the reasons the Seminoles are a 35-point underdog to Clemson, who just happens to be coming off its first regular season loss in over three calendar years. The Tigers also get back arguably the best college football player in the country with the return of Trevor Lawrence, who missed the last two weeks due to testing positive Covid-19. The Tigers have no margin for error at 7-1 and need to win out to ensure itself a spot in the ACC Championship Game in December and to have a chance at a College Football Playoff berth.

The prospects for the Seminoles don’t look good no matter what angle you look at the game. FSU is the biggest underdog of any FBS team playing another FBS team on Saturday according to Sportsbookreview.com and several other sports betting sites.

Long story short, the odds are stacked against FSU going into this weekend’s game. They are playing the game so there is always a chance but everything would have to go exactly right for the Seminoles, terribly wrong for Clemson and FSU still might need some luck on top of that to come out with a win.

But even if FSU can’t pull off what would be one of the biggest upsets of all-time there is a lot you could and want to see from the Seminoles against Clemson, the measuring stick of the ACC. And of course there are things that we will learn about this team and about individual players. With that in mind the Osceola staff compiled a list of things we would like to see or think we will see on Saturday:

Quarterback and Passing Game Development: This game will be huge for both Travis’ and Rodemaker’s development and we expect to see both players if healthy. FSU will have to throw the ball to try to keep pace with the Tigers on the scoreboard. You would like to see continued growth of Travis as a pocket passer and you would also like to see Norvell and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham continue to be creative in how they use play action and half-field reads to set him up for success in the passing game. Rodemaker, plain and simple, needs significant snaps so he can get the bad taste of the Jacksonville State game out of his mouth and he and Norvell know more about what his strengths and weaknesses are when live bullets are flying. Of course, establishing a reliable “go-to” receiver or two would help both quarterbacks out.

Team Togetherness/Mindset: This has certainly been a busy last couple of weeks off the field given injuries and opt-outs, especially since it involves players who had significant roles on this team on and off the field. Outside the walls of the football office and locker room no one thinks FSU has a chance. They have to believe and the coaches have to lay out a path to victory and the players believe, galvanize and become greater than the sum of their parts.  Miracles happens. Rare but it happens. But it takes something that FSU hasn’t demonstrated in a very, very long time: mental toughness and confidence. 

Compete, Fight, Don’t Quit: We think, for the most part, certainly as the season has gone on, the Seminoles play hard even though this season has not gone well. Players’ mental and physical toughness were challenged by Norvell early in the season. Despite the disappointing results, this team has shown more resolve than the team that preceded it. That resolve might get tested by Clemson. If it does, fight through it, play through the whistle, rally to the ball, compete for catches and play hard for 60 minutes. That sounds like coachspeak, and it is, but there is also a reason they say things like this. If they do this, regardless of the scoreboard, they will learn a lot about themselves.

Ground Games: FSU has held its last two opponents, Pitt and NC State, to 148 yards rushing each. They were giving up an average 237 yards on the ground game in their first five ACC games this season. If Clemson does anything average this season it is run the football. The Tigers average 150 yards per game on the ground, which ranks just 80th in the country. Clemson can throw the ball very effectively and has against whomever it has faced this season. FSU can’t allow the Tigers to have an average day running the ball and expect to win. They must shut down the Tigers on the ground and hold them to under 150 yards. The Seminoles’ struggles against the pass will continue unless they can take the running game away from Clemson. By the same token, FSU needs to continue to run the ball effectively as it has the vast majority of the season. Running successfully against the Tigers gives the FSU passing game the best chance of being effective. It would also give a young offensive line some confidence heading into games against Virginia and Duke, where the Seminoles look to be more evenly matched.

Predictions

Jerry Kutz – Clemson 59, FSU 14

Patrick Burnham – Clemson 48, FSU 14

Bob Ferrante – Clemson 54, FSU 10

Mark Salva – Clemson 49, FSU10