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Chaunte'l Powell | The Orlando Sentinel | October 8, 2019

Florida State football: Seminoles ready to see what it's made of against defending national champion Clemson

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Florida State is preparing for its toughest test of the season Saturday as the Seminoles (3-2, 2-1 ACC) hit the road to take on defending national champion Clemson (5-0, 3-0).

FSU coach Willie Taggart said the game will show how close the Seminoles are to winning a conference title.

"Our goal is to win the ACC championship, and in order to be the man, you've got to beat the man. So Clemson is the man," he said, quoting popular wrestler Ric Flair.

Taggart said James Blackman will be the starting quarterback, but he expects both Blackman and Alex Hornibrook to earn reps against Clemson. Taggart wouldn't say Monday how the time will be split between the two.

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"We'll see on Saturday. I don't know if that's something I want to give [Clemson coach] Dabo [Swinney] or anyone else what we're going to do," Taggart said. "It's going to be a tough challenge as it is. I don't want to give out anything other than they both will play. Again, we'll have a plan for them both and want them to go out and execute like they've been executing, and we'll be happy."

Taggart said in order to beat Clemson, the Seminoles have to play their best football on both sides.

The offensive line will have to protect against a defense that's recorded 19 sacks this season.

"We've just got to block them, block them better," Taggart said. "We've got to do better than what we've done in the past when it comes to that. ... And then again, we've just got to protect the quarterback and not hold on to the ball when we do throw the football. Get it to our guys' hands and see if we can play better than what we've done the past couple years. That would be good."

Both teams will be coming out of a bye week and Taggart said preparation will not change despite taking on a rested giant.

"I think it's all about us. It's going to be about us," he said. "Again, we're getting better, and I think we're getting better because we've been focusing on us and focusing on the things we need to do in order to get better. We've been playing winning football for the most part, and we've got to continue to play."

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"I've said it before -- you guys probably think I sound like a broken record -- but the challenge for us each week is to see if we can play our best, and that's something we haven't done yet, and we're shooting to try to do that."

Clemson's last game was a nail-biter against North Carolina that came down to a missed two-point conversion by the Tar Heels that gave the Tigers the 21-20 win.

Pundits around the country have been discussing whether the Tigers are living up to the standards placed on them entering the season. Taggart said he's ignored all of that talk and focused on the film. He added that the film showed a few keys to upsetting Clemson.

"[UNC] played smart football. They didn't turn the football over. I think the quarterback didn't get sacked much," he said. "They didn't have a lot of penalties ... I think they had like three penalties for 20 yards. Again, they played winning football for the most part. They just didn't finish at the end."

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"And they didn't give up a lot of explosive plays. I think that's something Clemson lives on is explosive plays, and they did a good job of limiting those. Clemson is very talented, and North Carolina did a great job of eliminating those explosive plays or minimizing them and did a great job of tackling in space. Those are always a challenge playing against a team like Clemson, and they did it for 60 minutes. I just thought they played really smart football."

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