This season has not gone as the Florida State faithful had envisioned.
Entering this week’s game at fourth-ranked Clemson (8-1, 6-1 ACC), the Seminoles have a losing record overall (3-5) and in the ACC (3-4).
For head coach Jimbo Fisher, the unrest from the fan base has been more than vocal — as numerous outlets are calling for the head coach of the Seminoles to make his way out of Tallahassee. But while it would not cure all of the ills suffered this season, a win over Atlantic Division rival would ease some of the grumblings and keep their 35-year bowl streak alive.
“There's a lot on the line as far as we have for pride and things that go on,” Fisher said. “How you want to be perceived yourself of, anytime you play, how hard you play, how well you play. And you want to improve your stock in what you provide here for young players, for example, how to compete and do things well.”
Florida State offense
The Florida State offense lost a key member of their team in the opening game of the season against the Alabama Crimson Tide when quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending patella injury in the fourth quarter of the game.
With the loss of Francois, the Seminoles turned to true freshman quarterback James Blackman to lead an offense that still boasted weapons like wide receivers Auden Tate, Nyquan Murray and running backs Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers. But those weapons have not been able to help the true freshman, as Blackman has struggled, throwing eight touchdown passes against seven interceptions.
For Fisher, the hope is the offensive unit can learn from what it did well in the Seminoles’ last game against Syracuse, a 27-24 victory, in the hopes of giving his team a chance to win Saturday.
“So, we need to learn from what we did, hopefully build some confidence,” Fisher said. “Ran football well at times, created big plays on offense. Gotta get better on third down, but we scored points, moved the football, had some long drives, short drives. When you're getting big plays, you're going to do that.
“But play a little smarter, play a little better. Some of those young guys getting experience, I think, will be critical in the game so they can continue to play better. Excited about the way they played, competed in the game and a good win.”
Florida State defense
Defensively the Seminoles have been an enigma through their first eight games — ranking seventh in the ACC (out of 14 teams) in total defense (allowing 361.8 yards per game), last in turnover margin (-1.25), last in turnovers gained (six), ninth in rush defense (allowing 157 yards per game), seventh in passing defense (204.8 yards allowed per game) and next to last in red zone defense.
These struggles are not due to a lack of talent, as the Seminole defense boasts players named to national preseason watch lists: Nate Andrews (DB), Brian Burns (DE), Ro’Derrick Hoskins (LB), Derwin James (DB), Trey Marshall (DB), Tavarus McFadden (DB), Derrick Nnadi (DT), Jacob Pugh (LB), Josh Sweat (DE) and Matthew Thomas (LB).
This week, Fisher will need all of his watch list candidates to play their best if they hope to leave Death Valley with a win.
“They've been in some battles all year, Clemson has. They seem to always be pulling them out,” Fisher said. “Doing a great job. Dabo does a great job. Quarterback can run, did a great job running the football -- big and physical. Receivers are fast, big young backs.
“Defensively, again, handling the whole passing game, the quarterback run game, had some plays on the quarterback late and just had guys in the hole and just missed him. And had guys there to do it. Just gotta play better.”