Florida State heads to the north to face a much less powerful Clemson with hopes of leaving Death Valley with a win

Written By Jordy McElroy

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The Clemson Tigers are desperately searching for a turnaround performance in their return to Memorial Stadium on Saturday to take on the Florida State Seminoles. Their recent two-game road trip ended with them getting hammered by the Pittsburgh Panthers in a 27-17 loss. That defeat pretty much sealed their fate as one of college football’s most disappointing teams this season. We’ll see if they can bounce back against Florida State, who is suddenly on a three-game winning streak. They recently blew through UMass in a 59-3 rout.

Florida State’s turnaround continues

Florida State was 0-4 at one point this season, and now, they’re one upset victory away from getting back to .500 win percentage. Granted, they aren’t knocking off the best teams in their recent surge to three straight wins, but they also weren’t losing to them every time out, either. At the very least, the Seminoles have managed to turn things around to some degree. Whether that pays off on the road against the Tigers remains to be seen.

But it certainly paid off against the struggling UMass Minutemen.

Clemson’s defense is the best thing going for them at the moment, but it’s easy for even them to get tired if their offense consistently fails to convert drives into points and get off the field quickly. There’s nothing flashy about Florida State defensively, and they’re tied for the most turnovers in the conference. So they’re going to have to dig deep to even take advantage of Clemson’s offensive shortcomings.

The Seminoles are sniffing out quarterbacks in the backfield and even getting to them occasionally, but they also don’t have a ton of game wreckers playing along the defensive front.

Even worse, Florida State is too dependent on their rushing attack to move the ball effectively. Good luck with a limited strategy on the road against a Clemson defense that has only allowed two rushing touchdowns all season. That defensive line isn’t a unit you want to try the smash-mouth approach against, even with quarterback Jordan Travis and running back Jashaun Corbin chewing up grass with their legs.

It’s important to note the Seminoles could still be without cornerback Sidney Williams (questionable) heading into this game.

Home sweet home for Clemson

There’s no place like home for Clemson.

All of their losses this season have come on the road, and coach Dabo Swinney is hopeful a return to Memorial Stadium can light a fire under a Tigers team that desperately needs it.

Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei got benched last week against Pittsburgh on a day when the offense couldn’t move the ball on third down. If not for their defense coming up with stops, this game could have looked much uglier than it did on paper.

I’m not concerned with the Tigers defense.

They’re stonewalling teams that attempt to run the football, and they’re also only allowing an average 216 yards per game through the air. If the Tigers slow down the rushing attack for Florida State, it’s going to be a long day for the Seminoles.

Florida State clearly hasn’t shown the same level of dominance on defense with opponents averaging 31.3 points per game against them. Clemson should feel better about their chances in this game with leading receiver Joseph Ngata and offensive lineman Hunter Rayburn both expected to be back in the lineup.

But how will Uiagalelei respond after being benched? The answer to that question will determine the trajectory of the rest of Clemson’s season.

It doesn’t get any more embarrassing than what happened to the Tigers last week. Even without Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson under center, there are massive expectations that come along with the Clemson program.

But I’m not ready to completely write off DJ Uiagalelei—not yet at least.

He doesn’t need to be as good as his predecessors for the Tigers to turn a corner and start winning games. Granted, he needs to continue to work on his accuracy and limit the turnovers. But the team can help him right away by running the ball more effectively and creating more opportunities for things to open up downfield.

Clemson’s defense will be all over Florida State’s offense in this game. The Seminoles are too one-dimensional to get by in this one. They’ll be running into a Tigers defense that is tied for the third-least rushing touchdowns allowed in the nation. Opponents are only averaging 3.22 yards per carry against them. Unlike Pittsburgh, Florida State doesn’t have a scary defense that poses the same threat on the other end. So I’m expecting Uiagalelei and company to do a much better job of making plays in this one.

Clemson spent all week long listening to the talk, and now, they’ll respond on Thursday. I’m laying the points and taking the Tigers.

Prediction: Clemson Tigers (-9.5)

Written By Jordy McElroy , “Jordy”

Born in Germany and raised in the beautiful state of Tennessee, Jordy McElroy is a storyteller of sports, a sports betting enthusiast, and a semi-deep thinker. Being a New England Patriots fan means he’s a six-time Super Bowl winner as well, which means you’d have to be a fool to ignore his advice. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiners, Jordy’s work appeared on CNN.com, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report, USA TODAY, and BJPenn.com. There are no beaches where he comes from — just rolling hills, green valleys, and all the Sun Drop you can drink.