The Clemson Tigers have been the talk of college football all week, as their impending matchup with the Florida State Seminoles looms nearer. Much talk has been made about quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston, as both have a huge opportunity to make waves, as the BCS rankings are revealed the following evening.
However, this game will certainly come down to more than the play of the quarterbacks, and Clemson will certainly be looking for another win on the big stage after their successful win in their season opener against Georgia. But which players should be on the lookout as the Tigers face another prominent offense?
1. Vic Beasley
The nation’s leader in sacks will be pitted against Florida State left tackle Cameron Irving, who comes in at a sold 6-foot-6, 320 pounds. Much had been made about Beasley’s 6-foot-2, 235 pound frame for a defensive end, and Beasley responded by notching nine sacks through the Tigers’ first six games, and even recovered a fumble for a touchdown against Boston College that sealed their victory against the Eagles. Now, the Tigers will need one of their most athletic pieces on defense to make life difficult for Winston, and it will be interesting to see how much the Seminoles put up against Beasley. They appear to be really confident in Irving’s ability to contain Beasley, and Beasley has thrived on single matchups this season.
2. Martavis Bryant
A guy still playing with a chip on his shoulder, Bryant has another shot to prove himself on the big stage. On the Tigers’ first big stage appearance against Georgia, Bryant failed to record a single reception and his impact was lost. Since then, Bryant has 17 receptions for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Bryant has flashed big play ability on the deep ball, and the Tigers will need him to be sharp against physical Florida State defensive backs that took away Clemson’s receivers in the second half of last season’s FSU victory. With the secondary very likely to key in on the respect that Sammy Watkins brings, Bryant is likely to have plenty of one-on-one matchups, and he must take advantage of those matchups. Clemson does not really have a set No. 2 threat receiver, and while it’s largely due to how quarterback Boyd spreads the ball around, Bryant has to step into that role. Adam Humphries will also have opportunities, after posting solid numbers the last three weeks.
3. Travis Blanks
After not playing until the second half of Boston College as a precaution, coupled with the miscues of freshman safety Jayron Kearse that led to two touchdowns, Blanks will be the staple of the secondary as they try to contain Florida State’s prolific passing attack, spearheaded by Winston. Blanks and the secondary can’t be caught looking in the backfield, as FSU has made opposing defenses pay with their deep ball. The Seminoles will be sure to test Clemson’s secondary as much as possible. Blanks and the secondary must make the freshman quarterback earn every play that he can, and give him no kind of deep ball freebies.
4. Stephone Anthony
Just as Winston quarterbacks the offense, middle linebacker Anthony is at the center of the defense. Anthony has come on in his third season, collecting 41 tackles and three sacks. Against one of the top leading rushers in Boston College running back Andre Williams, Anthony’s calls and adjustments at the line held one of the nation’s leading rushers to only 70 yards on 24 carries. This time, he faces a dual-threat quarterback in Winston and will likely be tasked with making sure he doesn’t get loose on the ground. Clemson’s front seven has been the strength of this defense’s improvement in their second season under Brent Venables, and Anthony will look for it to stay that way against the heralded freshman quarterback.