5 Reasons Florida State Seminoles Will Beat Clemson Tigers
5 Reasons Why Florida State Will Beat Clemson
It's been called the "Game of the Century" for the ACC, and now the wait is almost over.
The Seminoles come into the game as one of the hottest teams in the country and have now cracked the top five in all major polls. Clemson looked a little shaky last weekend but are still the team to beat in the ACC, just like most pundits predicted before the season began.
It’s not only a match-up of two great teams, but also a battle of two of the best quarterbacks in the country. All-ACC quarterback Tajh Boyd has been spectacular once again during this his senior year and is on the short list of potential Heisman Trophy candidates.
However, he’ll likely be joined on that list by redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston of Florida State. While some analysts thought he might be better than departed Seminole quarterback E.J. Manuel, no one imagined he’d be as incredible as he’s been to this point.
While the game won’t be decided by just the two quarterbacks, the Heisman race very well could. The winner of this game has the inside track to make it to New York, while the loser will likely have a tough time overcoming the loss.
Similarly, the winner of this game has a legitimate shot at playing in the national title game, while the loser is almost certainly out of the picture.
Here’s a look at five reasons why Florida State will beat Clemson.
5. Florida State Actually Has the Better Receiving Corps
While the Florida State wide receivers didn’t come into the season with the hype that Clemson’s did, they’re the better unit at this point. Clemson has the high-profile talent in Sammy Watkins, but after him, there is a significant drop off (especially after the Charone Peake injury). Martavis Bryant is loaded with talent, but he still struggles to show up consistently. And while Adam Humphries has been solid, he doesn’t have the dynamic play-making abilities that Clemson will need on Saturday.
The Noles receiving corps is led by Rashad Greene who catches everything thrown his way. He’s not as explosive as Watkins, but he’s still found the end zone five times this year. Kenny Shaw came into the season as the possession receiver in the slot, but he’s averaging more than 20 yards per catch thus far. Then there’s uber-talented wideout Kelvin Benjamin. At 6-foot-6 240 pounds, he’s a physical freak that is coming into his own in this his sophomore season. He’s still not where he needs to be, but he appears to be headed in that direction.
It’s not a huge advantage, but at this point, the Seminoles have a slightly better collection of wide receivers.
4. Florida State Has the Better Running Game
Coming into the season, much was made of the two-headed monster the Seminoles had at running back. James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman both had productive sophomore campaigns and were looking to break out as juniors. And while Wilder Jr. has been slowed by a nagging shoulder injury, Freeman has emerged as a reliable every down back. He’s averaging over seven yards per carry and has done a nice job in pass protection as well.
Another variable thrown into the mix is the presence of Karlos Williams in the Seminole backfield now. After making the switch from safety to running back mid-season, Williams has played very well. He’s scored six touchdowns in limited action and shown an explosiveness that both Wilder Jr. and Freeman don’t have. He might not get a lot of action Saturday night, but he could make a big play if he gets the ball in his hands in open space.
The Clemson run game is still adequate but relies heavily on quarterback Tajh Boyd. Roderick McDowell has been better than some people expected, but he still hasn't found the end zone yet this year.
Boyd will be called upon to run more this weekend, but that of course exposes him to many more hits that can take their toll as the game wears on. Meanwhile, FSU can keep its backs fresh by rotating three running backs who are more than capable of taking over a game.
3. Pressure on Tajh Boyd
This is not a reference to pressure that will be applied by the Florida State front seven. In fact, one of the biggest issues for the Seminoles this year has been their inability to get to the quarterback consistently.
Rather, the pressure I’m referring to is that which comes with being the senior quarterback in this match-up of elite QBs. Boyd could have gone to the NFL and instead chose to come back to play for Clemson in hopes that he could lead them to a national championship. Well, this game will determine whether or not he has any chance whatsoever.
Boyd has played well in a number of high-profile games, but there is a ton of pressure on him to perform. If the Tigers can win this Saturday, they’re a lock to win the ACC and will have a great shot at getting to the national title game. If they lose and neither goal is reached, their entire season has to be considered a disappointment.
That’s a lot of pressure.
2. Florida State's Dominant Secondary
It is no surprise that Florida State is second in the country in passing yards allowed with only 149 yards per game. The secondary is loaded with talent, even with Karlos Williams moving to offense and Tyler Hunter being done for the year.
Lamarcus Joyner was outstanding in his matchup with Maryland’s Stefon Diggs and is proving to be one of the best coverage guys in the country. Terrence Brooks is very reliable on the back end and does a nice job running the alley against the run. Meanwhile, true freshman Jalen Ramsey has been a revelation in the secondary. He’s started every game this year and has played very well at safety after Hunter was lost for the year.
Last year, the Noles had success jamming Sammy Watkins at the line in an attempt to throw off the timing of his routes. This year, expect Clemson offensive coordinator to use motions and formations to prevent that. If he can get a clean release, it won’t matter how talented to Seminole secondary is, he’s that good. However, the Seminoles will be bound and determined to take him out of the game and make one of the other wide receivers beat them.
They don’t think that can happen. We’ll know for sure on Saturday.
1. Jameis Winston
Nothing more can be said about Jameis Winston’s foray into college football. Through five games, he’s been absolutely brilliant. Not only is he a human highlight reel, but he makes the simple plays as well. That’s what the Seminoles will need if they are going to go into Death Valley and beat the No. 3 team in the country.
Winston appears to be a cool customer, even in the face of adversity, but he’s never seen anything like he will Saturday night. He will face deafening noise and the most hostile crowd he’s ever encountered. How he reacts will go a long way in determining the outcome of this classic match-up.
My gut tells me that this kid rises to the occasion and shines on the brightest stage. He appears to have the “it” factor that coaches struggle to define and could play his best game yet. The Clemson defense was maligned for much of last year but has been outstanding to start the 2013 season, so it won’t be an easy task.
However, come Saturday night, I expect Winston to be the difference as the Noles shock Clemson and move to 6-0.