Scouting Florida State: how the Tigers win
1. Disrupt and pressure: So far, Jameis Winston has made college football look easy. To beat the Seminoles, the Tigers need to bring FSU's freshman phenom back to earth. So far, Clemson's pass rush has been the nation's best, and the Tigers' deep front four has been consistently disruptive. If FSU can keep the Tigers off Winston, then he'll have a chance to find holes in Clemson's coverage, throwing the ball to receivers who are big plays waiting to happen. Clemson needs to affect the quarterback's play and get him off his game.
2. No big-play busts: FSU is going to make plays and score points, but the Tigers need to make sure the Seminoles go the long, hard way. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables bragged on his secondary last week, saying that the Tigers have been sound on the back side, rarely letting receivers run free. It happened once against Boston College, but the Seminoles will bring significantly higher-caliber weaponry to Death Valley.
3. Cut down on negative plays: Against Syracuse, the Tigers found their offensive rhythm and the attack started to hum. Last week's fumbles were out of character, but the Tigers were already dealing with the regular occurrence of negative-yardage plays. The Tigers currently rank 91st nationally in tackles for loss allowed. That number needs to improve, especially against an aggressive, opportunistic defense like FSU's.
4. Win third down: It will be strength vs. strength, and the game could well come down to which team does a better job of sustaining possession. Clemson leads the nation with its .237 third-down conversion defense. FSU's offense, meanwhile, is converting 51 percent of its third-down chances. On the other side of the ball, Clemson's third-down conversion rate has been off a bit this season, compared to last year, while the Seminoles' defense is at 29 percent on third down. A year ago, FSU led the nation in the defensive three and outs.