With the nation’s longest active home winning streak on the line, Clemson will play host to a surging Florida State team in an Atlantic Coast Conference game on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers have won 31 consecutive games at Memorial Stadium, dating to the 2016 season and a 43-42 loss to Pitt. Clemson recovered to win the national championship that season.
Such a finish isn’t in the realm of possibility this time around for Clemson (4-3, 3-2 ACC), which has dropped from the polls after suffering three regular-season defeats for the first time since the 2014 season.
The Tigers still have a mathematical chance at a seventh consecutive ACC Championship, but can ill afford a loss against the Seminoles (3-4, 2-2), who are riding a three-game winning streak after an 0-4 start.
“They really have played a lot better,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s a good football team across the board that’s way better than their record.”
Florida State has rebounded thanks to dual-threat quarterback Jordan Travis and a much-improved running game behind Jashaun Corbin and Treshaun Ward.
Travis has completed 38 of 55 pass attempts (69 percent) for 399 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions during the Seminoles’ three-game winning streak. He’s also rushed for 312 yards in the last three games, averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
“Their quarterback is the key,” Swinney said. “He has really settled them down. You can tell he’s a natural leader and he can flat-out beat you by himself.
“They’re taking advantage of his gifts. He’s a great scrambler. This kid is dangerous, hard to corral.”
Corbin and Ward, meanwhile, have combined for 444 yards on the ground during the winning streak.
Clemson, which is seeking a sixth consecutive victory against Florida State for the first time in series history, is struggling offensively. The Tigers are the lowest-scoring team in the ACC at 20 points per game and also rank last in the league in total offense at 321.3 yards per game.
Sophomore quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who entered the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate, has only four touchdown passes against five interceptions and has the league’s lowest passing efficiency rating.
“They have playmakers on that side of the ball,” Florida State coach Mike Norvell said. “As you go back and look, they’ve had their shots, and whether it’s a dropped pass or a missed opportunity here or there, it has been a challenge for them at times. We’ve been through that as well. I know what that looks like. But they’re very explosive, very capable.”
Clemson, which is coming off a 27-17 loss at Pitt, will be without leading rusher Kobe Pace against the Seminoles. A sophomore who has gained 327 yards this season, Pace will be sidelined by COVID-19 protocol.
The Tigers also received more negative news on the injury front this week when starting guard Matt Bockhorst and tight end Braden Galloway were declared out for the rest of the season. Clemson has lost 11 players for the season due to injury, but Norvell remains wary of a Clemson unit that leads the ACC in scoring defense (14.6 ppg).
“They just don’t give up points — they’re phenomenal in the red zone,” Norvell said. “And they’re probably the best tackling team we’ve played this season. They’ve got a lot of experienced players. It’s going to be a challenge for us to sustain long drives.”