When the No. 3 Clemson Tigers host the No. 5 Florida State Seminoles in Death Valley tonight, it will be one of the biggest matchups in the history of the ACC. The game will have huge implications not only for the ACC title but possibly the BCS National Championship as well. While both teams bring elite quarterbacks into tonight’s matchup, the key for a Clemson win might be getting the running game going.
So far this season, Clemson has not been using the rushing game all that effectively, ranking No. 9 in the ACC in rushing. Roderick McDowell leads the team with 385 yards on 78 carries, averaging about 64 yards per game. While he leads the team in yards, however, he hasn’t found the endzone yet this season. Tajh Boyd leads the team in rushing touchdowns with five but is picking up significant yardage, averaging less than three yards per carry.
Clemson’s passing offense has been spectacular this season, ranking No. 1 in the ACC at 341.7 yards per game. But FSU boast’s the conferences best pass defense with athletic safeties and linebackers that can close down passing windows in a hurry. It’s an instance of strength vs strength with Clemson’s passing attack going against the secondary for the Seminoles. If that matchup goes to a stalemate, FSU wins.
In that case, perhaps it will be an unexpected gameplan involving more running plays that makes the difference for Clemson. FSU is no slouch against the run, giving up just 127.8 yards per game and only one rushing touchdown this season, but you can bet they will be focused on slowing down Boyd and the Tigers’ explosive passing attack. That might loosen up the box for some running lanes to get opened up and allowing Clemson to grind out long scoring drives on the ground.
If they can do that, they’ll not only help themselves with some offensive balance and open up the secondary to some big plays with play action pass later in the game, but it will also keep the explosive FSU offense on the sideline where they can’t do any damage. When an elite passing offense comes up against an elite passing defense, could the running game be the key to maintaining home-field advantage?