Tommy Bowden is not used to seeing much of Florida State in his current role as an analyst for the ACC Network because he does games involving the bottom-dwellers.
But the former Clemson head coach got a good look at the Seminoles this past weekend when they hosted Syracuse and earned a 27-24 win.
“I’ve been on that TV show ACC blitz for about seven years. I think last Saturday was the first time we’ve had Florida State,” Bowden said. “We usually get Duke and BC and Wake Forest. We don’t get Clemson or Florida State. But it was kind of nice to watch Florida State. I know Jimbo (Fisher) wasn’t happy about it, but we were.”
It’s been that kind of year for the Seminoles, a team that many picked to win the national championship prior to the season.
This week’s game against Clemson was supposed to decide which ACC Atlantic team would have a clear path to earning a berth in the College Football Playoff.
While Clemson’s national title dreams can still become a reality, FSU is 3-5 and fighting to reach a bowl game.
“Florida State used to be the team to chase and now Dabo’s turned that. Now Clemson is the team to chase. Everybody’s chasing them,” Bowden said. “He’s beaten them the last couple of years, and he’s highly favored in this game. It’s taken on a little bit of different context… There is a lot at stake for Clemson. For Florida State it’s pride. But gosh, it’s been a long time since they’ve played for pride.”
The Seminoles lost starting quarterback Deondre Francois in the opener against Alabama and have struggled since.
Florida State’s two wins were at Wake Forest and at Duke before it held off Syracuse at home for a 3-point win last week.
FSU’s offense had three touchdown plays of more than 50 yards in the first half as the Seminoles built a 21-7 lead before holding on at the end.
“It took three big plays to just barely beat Syracuse. It’s going to take a little bit more than that to beat Clemson at Clemson,” Bowden said. “They won their first home game in November… I’m shocked like most everybody else.”
Florida State ranks last in the ACC in turnover margin, last in tackles for loss allowed and 12th in penalty yards per game.
Bowden sees those three issues as the biggest reasons why the Seminoles are struggling.
“They could be 5-3 very easily if they take care of self inflicted wounds… They’re not good enough right now to make up additional yards in penalties,” he said. “If they would just address those issues, look in the mirror and address those issues, they’d be 5-3 and at least kind of on track with the injury to the quarterback.”
The Tigers are favored by 16 points as they look to clinch a spot in the ACC championship game.
“When I first went to Clemson, Florida State had to mess up in order for us to beat them,” Bowden said. “Clemson’s going to have to mess up. It’ll be flipped. Clemson’s going to have to mess up for Florida State to win.”