22 September 2011
On the heels of a disappointing loss in which the Seminoles missed several opportunities to change the outcome, Florida State must travel on the road to take on a talented Clemson Tigers team in one of the most hostile stadiums in the ACC. As if this challenge were not already daunting, the Seminoles will likely be significantly undermanned as they attempt to leave Death Valley with a win.
In addition to being down as many as four of their top six receivers, the Seminoles may also have to take the field without starting QB EJ Manuel. If ever a single game were to be characterized as a 'survival' game, this would be such for the Florida State Seminoles. The Clemson Tigers pose the biggest threat to Florida State's title hopes this season and following this Saturday, the Noles have a bye week, followed by two matchups with less than impressive teams in Wake Forest and Duke. Starting the conference season off 1-0 and avoiding a second straight loss is a big deal for this football team. Let's hear what Harry Homer, Pete Pessimist and Randy Realist have to say about this game.
Harry Homer says: Let's not hit the panic button just yet here folks! Our Noles played a hard fought game last week and couldn't quite pull it off, but I'm here to tell you why we're going into Clemson and coming out with a victory. There is plenty of worry due to injuries and of course, even a blind homer like me can understand that, but come on guys, this Seminole team is still damn good! Now we face Clemson, who torched Auburn on Saturday, but have you been paying attention? Everyone has torched Auburn this year! It's not like they went into the teeth of some defensive juggernaut and conquered a mighty beast. The Auburn Tigers can't and likely won't stop a nosebleed in 2011. Do these guys have some offensive playmakers? Sure they do, but so did Oklahoma. The Seminole defense will not sit back and allow Tahj Boyd to have all day and they certainly will not be allowing receivers to run through the secondary without a hand being laid on them. The Clemson Tigers will see serious resistance this weekend and the big plays they've relied on will be much more scarce.
On offense, I think the Seminoles will be able to effectively scheme around some of the losses to the receiving corps. I expect to see a good deal of screens and short passes, which will benefit us most by getting the ball into the hands of talented playmakers in space. Rashad Greene and Christian Green both have excellent ability with the ball in their hands and could be used in the bubble screen and mid-screen game extensively. Clemson has had struggles with discipline and tackling in their first three games. If that continues to be the case, I think the FSU offense could surprise some people and move the ball more than a lot of naysayers realize. This game will be largely about keeping the ball away from the Clemson offense. Running the clock and limiting mistakes is what Florida State will be focused on.
Then there's the emotional aspect of this game to consider. Both of these teams are a bit spent after big games last weekend, but after watching Dabo Swinney celebrate in utter shock and surprise at his team's victory over Auburn, I'm convinced that he is just as over his head as a head coach can be. I mean if he treated a week three win over an opponent he was supposed to beat like it's a National Championship, how do you charge your troops up to play another big game the following week? My guess is they come out a bit flat and give Florida State just the breathing room they need to take this game home. Whatever happens Saturday, FSU fans need to realize that this is still a very good football team and will have an opportunity to bring home the first ACC Title since 2005! Final Score: Florida State 24, Clemson 14.
Pete Pessimist says: You guys can let this fool Harry feed you all that nonsense if you want to. There's no way anyone in their right mind can pick Florida State to win this game. Do we have a chance? Well yeah, that's why they play the damn game. But if you're being honest, you know that going in there with a backup freshman QB that weighs 170 lbs in one of the most hostile environments in the South with as little as four scholarship receivers is an awful situation. Do you really think this kid is up to the challenge? He may have shown a little here and there, but it takes a little more than a lucky 3rd and 28 TD pass to convince me that he's up to the challenge. He isn't as mobile as EJ and he lacks any experience beyond the friendly confines of Doak Campbell Stadium.
Speaking of the friendly confines of Doak Campbell, can we put Saturday night's defensive performance into perspective? Before you get all upset with me, let me say that I recognize improvement when I see it. I know these kids are more talented and prepared than they have been in years. But they won't have a crowd of rowdy, crazy youngsters screaming to back them up against Clemson. As usual, I need to see this before I buy in. Can FSU play lockdown defense without the type of crowd support a home game brings? Regardless of how you feel, only Saturday will tell. This is as big of an emotional test a team can have; traveling on the road, wounded physically and emotionally drained after playing the program's biggest home game in recent history. I'll be hoping with everything in me that my Noles can pull off the upset, but please keep in mind that a win here would be just that, an upset. Final Score: Clemson 21, Florida State 10.
Randy Realist says: As usual, both Harry and Pete have some valid points to work with here. Florida State is decimated on offense and have to figure out what they're doing in the run game if they have any chance at all against this Clemson Tigers team. As usual when two teams of comparable talent get together, the squad that makes the least amount of mistakes will win this football game. In some ways, this works in Florida State's favor because the Tigers have proven through three games to lack discipline on the defensive side of the ball. Clemson does have the benefit of having Tahj Boyd under center, who to date has been wonderful in decision making with a 10 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio. Clemson absolutely has to avoid allowing Florida State's defense to make big plays, because given the circumstances there is no guarantee that the Seminoles will be able to generate points on offense.
Key matchup here will be Clemson's ground game against the FSU run defense. The Tigers have run the ball 43 times per game, averaging five yards per carry through the first three games. Conversely, the Seminoles have held opposing teams to just 2.8 yards per carry thus far in 2011. There is no question that the Clemson O vs. the FSU D will be the strength on strength matchup in this game. Clemson has relied heavily on taking short plays and turning them into long plays with their talented skill players in space, while Florida State has done an outstanding job of tackling in space. This is a situation where very clearly, something has to give. It only takes one or two big plays in either direction to break a game like this wide open. The Tigers have had five plays go for over 50 yards this season, but as Harry mentioned, they have yet to play a defense that really even has a pulse. This will be the biggest test they have faced to date, but it does not mean they are not capable of passing it and making something happen.
As much as I would like to believe the Noles pull this off, it is difficult to see it being in the cards this weekend with so many key players missing. Four out of the six receivers you entered the season relying on will be sitting out. Sure there is an outside chance that one or both of Bert Reed and Kenny Shaw could give it a go, but they are not guaranteed and 100%. Your starting QB may play, but likewise, would not be 100%. To say this is a survival game is almost an understatement. If you're a Nole fan, you have to hope for the best and pray the coaching staff scratches up a running game immediately because this win would be absolutely huge in terms of team morale and season goals. As stated earlier, all is not lost if the Seminoles drop this game on Saturday, but Clemson is always one you want to bring home. That being said, I have to go with an FSU loss here. Final Score: Clemson 17, Florida State 13.
Key components to watch
QB Pressure: How much pressure can the Seminole defense force on Clemson QB Tahj Boyd? The Clemson signal caller had plenty of time last weekend to pick Auburn apart, but Florida State is a different beast entirely and honestly, the Clemson offensive line is rather weak. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact this will have on the game's outcome. The pressure will come, the questions are how much and how well will Clemson react to it.
On the flip side, it is easy to imagine that Clemson will try to get after Clint Trickett. A freshman, first time starter on the road could be rattled if he's hit early. If Florida State can get the ball out of his hands early or find a way to get things going in the running game it will do wonders for both Trickett and the team in general of course.
Clemson Playmakers vs. FSU defenders: The Tigers have several very dynamic weapons to choose from on offense. Florida State did an outstanding job of limiting a very talented group against OU and have to step up to the plate immediately to do the same against Clemson. Whoever comes out on top here could be the key to victory in this game.
Clemson WR Sammy Watkins: This is a truly unique and dynamic player as a true freshman and he will undoubtedly be a heavy feature in what Clemson tries to do on Saturday. To this point in his young career, Watkins has hauled in 21 catches for 292 yards and four touchdowns along with 12 rushes for 79 yards.
Florida State DE Bjoern Werner: As a complete DE, defending extremely well against the run, Werner will have to be on top of his game for the second week in a row as he will run into another heavy zone read/spread type of offense. His discipline and effectiveness setting the edge for the FSU defense will have to be superb, as it was against OU.
Clemson DT Brandon Thompson: One of the better players in all of the ACC, Thompson will be one to watch against an interior line that has been weak for Florida State early in the season. It will be interesting to see what measures are taken by the Seminoles to scheme against the monster in the middle.
Florida State WR Rodney Smith: Suddenly, Smith finds himself as the most senior member of a unit that desperately lacks experience and leadership. Though talented, the younger receivers have yet to go on the road and be targeted in a big game. The 6'5 Rodney Smith will need to be effective in all aspects to help out his young QB and other receivers. Clemson runs some heavy man schemes at time and this may prove beneficial for Smith, as it did last season.
Hidden Key* A big play on Special Teams could be a determining factor in Saturday's game should it happen. Overall, Florida State plays extremely consistent field position ball. This is something that may help them if they can provide a short field for the offense all day.
Game Time: Saturday, September 24, 3:30 p.m ET
Location: Clemson, SC
TV Announcers: Brad Nessler (Play-by-Play), Todd Blackledge (Color), Holly Rowe (Sideline)
Radio 94.9 WTNT-FM and 1270-AM: Gene Deckerhoff (Play-by-Play), William Floyd (Color), Tom Block (Sideline)
Give us your score predictions! Do you have the Noles going in there and pulling this one out? Let us know
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