WHAT WE ARE HEARING: PREVIEW AND PREDICTION FOR NO.2 CLEMSON vs. FLORIDA STATE
- 2019-10-12 13:43:36
Welcome to another edition of What We Are Hearing!
It’s Clemson-FSU week, and historically this would be one of the biggest games of the season nationally, but Florida State has fallen on hard times under second-year head coach Willie Taggart, who is struggling to keep his head above water. The Noles are better than they were last year, thanks in large part to new offensive coordinator Kendall Briles, son of former Baylor Head Coach Art Briles, but they still come into this game unranked for the third straight season and a big underdog. The Tigers handed the Noles their worst home loss ever last year, 59-10, as Trevor Lawrence passed for a then-career-high 310 yards and 4 touchdowns without an interception. You can bet the Noles are looking for some payback, and the Tigers will have a chip on their shoulder after losing the No.1 spot despite winning on the road after 4 blowouts. Both teams had a bye week to prepare for this crucial Atlantic Division matchup that has decided the winner of the division for the last 10 straight years and the winner of the ACC for the last 9 straight years.
Clemson is going for its 750th win, which would make it the 15th program in history to win that many games….FSU leads the all-time series 20-12, but Clemson has won the last 4 meetings and 7 of the last 8 in Death Valley….Clemson and Alabama are tied for the most consecutive weeks in the AP Top 10 at 66 straight weeks. Georgia is 3rd at 35 weeks… Clemson has won 18 straight in Death Valley going back to the last-second loss to Pitt in 2016. Prior to that, the Tigers won 21 straight, so the Tigers have won 39 of their last 40 home games, losing only on a last-second field goal….Clemson is now 13-2 all-time as the No.1 ranked team, with both losses to Alabama….Clemson is 25-4 in its last 29 one-score games…..Clemson has won 34 of its last 37 games away from home and 22 of its last 23 true road games….Clemson has won its last 34 straight Saturday games, the longest streak in the nation….
The Noles could easily be 5-0 this season but blew late leads against Boise State and Virginia. They actually led Boise 31-13 before getting shutout in the second half. Boise ran 110 total plays in the Florida heat, and the FSU defense was totally worn out by the 4th quarter. On the other hand, the Noles also very nearly lost a home night game against Louisiana Monroe. They won thanks to a missed PAT in overtime after Monroe easily waltzed into the end zone for a touchdown. I believe FSU would have lost if not for the missed PAT. That two losses notwithstanding, the Noles are far and away better than they were last year when the Tigers handed them their worst home loss ever, 59-10.
New offensive coordinator Kendall Briles will look to establish the run with RB Cam Akers, easily the best player on their team and possibly the best back the Tigers will face all season. He has 582 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns already, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He also has 15 catches for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns. Akers put the Noles on his back in that Monroe game with 248 total yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Noles have been playing musical quarterbacks with James Blackman and Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook, who came in to replace Blackman in the Louisville game and was 15-20 for 255 yards and 2 touchdowns in the come-from-behind win. He had a great game against NC State as well, going 29-40 for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns in the 31-13 win. Hornibrook is a confident, proven winner going back to his days at Wisconsin, and he doesn’t make mistakes. He has yet to throw an interception in his two games this season. However, he was sacked 8 times in their last game against NC State, and that might be the reason Taggart has elected to start Blackman, who has looked great at times but is inconsistent. He is completing 69.4% of his passes this season for 970 yards and 9 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. Neither quarterback is much of a running threat, but Blackman is the more athletic of the two.
Taggart said that both quarterbacks will play, and they will have a couple talented receivers to throw to—most notably Tamorrion Terry (#15). The 6’4, 203-pound sophomore from Georgia is a heck of an athlete and their best big-play receiver. He averages 18.3 yards per catch and has 4 touchdowns this season. He had a big game the last time out with 5 catches for 77 yards and 2 touchdowns against NC State. The battle between Terry and Terrell on the boundary will be a fun one to watch! 5’9, 170-pound sophomore Keyshawn Helton (#20) is their second big-play receiver. He has 16 catches for 232 yards and 3 touchdowns this season.
Defensively, the Noles still have talent like they always have. They weren’t able to put a full game together against Boise State and ran out of gas in the second half, but they played much better against an albeit struggling NC State offense. 6’5, 305-pound sophomore DT Cory Durden (#16) leads the team with 3.5 sacks, but their best defensive player is probably 6’5, 311-pound junior DT Marvin Wilson (#21). He has 3 sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery this season. The Noles also have a talented secondary, led by sophomore Asante Samuel, Jr. (#26), who leads the team in pass breakups and has one interception. 6’4, 215-pound junior Hamsah Nasirildeen from Concord, NC has 3 forced fumbles this season and can match up with the size of Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. He leads the team with 33 tackles.
At kicker, senior Ricky Aguayo has seemingly been at FSU forever, but he is not the ace his older brother Roberto was for the Noles. Ricky has a long of 53 yards this season, but he is just 4-8 overall.
FSU is No.41 in scoring offense (33.2 points per game), No.49 in total offense (429.4 yards/game), No.106 in rush offense (121.20 yards/game) and No.16 in pass offense (308.2 yards/game). The Noles are No.90 in scoring defense (29.6 points/game), No.109 in total defense (447.2 yards/game), No.59 in rush defense (144.8 yards/game) and No.121 in pass defense (302.2 yards/game). They are No.20 in sacks at 3.4 per game and No.78 on 3rd down, allowing conversions 38% of the time. The best thing the Noles might have going for them is the turnover margin. They are plus 5 for the season, which is tied for 10th in the nation. The Tigers, conversely, are minus one, which is tied for 78th.
The Tigers have taken a lot of criticism from the national media since the narrow win at UNC, and, frankly, they don’t know what they are talking about. It’s like they expect the Tigers to beat every team by 20 points or more ad infinitum, just because that is what the did in their final 10 games last season, including their two playoff games. Unfortunately, they are living in fantasy land. That simply has never happened in the history of college football. Every great team and eventual national champion has had close wins and even losses en route to the title. The Tigers blew out their first four opponents, including a ranked Texas A&M team, but just because they didn’t play a clean game at UNC and won by one point, the national media acts like they lost. It’s as if they all have amnesia and have forgotten that the Tigers did almost the exact same thing at Texas A&M early in the season last year. Then, of course, they lost Trevor Lawrence in the first half against Syracuse and had to come from behind for a close win. After that, they were never in a close fourth-quarter game for the rest of the season. Guess what, national media, you will probably see the same from this team. What was the biggest question mark with this Clemson team coming into the season? It was the inexperience on the defensive line. And yet the Tigers have allowed 4 fewer points per game after 5 games than last year’s team that was No.1 in scoring defense. They have 2 more sacks than the Clemson team that led the nation in sacks last year. Given that we know all the fire power that returned from last year’s team, the national media should wake up to the fact that there is nothing wrong with this team, and they are in an even better spot than they were last year when they went 15-0 with 10 straight blowouts. The defense has exceeded expectations thus far and will only get better. And we know the offense will be lights out by the end of the season, barring significant injuries. The national media has also been all over Trevor Lawrence because he hasn’t played every game like he did in the playoff. Again, that is simply not realistic. He has played better than he has gotten credit for and set a new career record for passing yards with 395 at Syracuse. Sure, he threw some interceptions early that we didn’t see last year, but people need to allow that it’s still early in the season, and he will get better as the season progresses. They don’t remember that he missed a lot of throws early in the season last year as well.
The bottom line is that it is absolutely absurd that Alabama jumped over Clemson in the polls after the UNC game. Clemson has had a tougher schedule than Alabama thus far, and Alabama allowed 31 points at home to a bad Ole Miss team before jumping the Tigers in the polls. I guess the national media does have amnesia because they seem to have forgotten that the Tigers humiliated Alabama 44-16 just 9 months ago in the national championship. Not to mention that they have won 20 straight games, the longest streak in the nation. Those two facts in and of themselves should add up to enough equity to buy the Tigers the benefit of any doubt whatsoever. The last time the AP No.1 team dropped after a win was in 2015, and that was only because the Tigers were No.1 in the first CFP rankings release. You’d have to go back 10 years to find the last time No.2 beat an unranked team and jumped over an unbeaten No.1!
I expect the Tigers to come out with a big chip on their shoulders and looking to prove to everyone that they are still the No.1 team in the land. They did not play a clean game in Chapel Hill, with 6 pre-snap penalties, including 5 false starts. Those were absolute drive killers, and the Tigers were never able to establish a rhythm offensively. Then they had the fumble on first down that led to a touchdown for the Tar Heels. Then there was Cornell Powell tripping over his own feet when he had a 40-yard gain or even a touchdown ahead of him. All of those factors kept the game much closer than it should have been, but the Tigers found a way to win on the road like champions do. When Ohio State has had games like that, they’ve lost by 30 points to Iowa or Purdue. The Tigers won. The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time, and I expect this team to take out their frustrations on the Noles. Look for Amari Rodgers to have a big game after he was virtually non-existent at UNC. He had a huge game against the Noles last year with 2 long touchdown catches. I also expect Justyn Ross and Travis Etienne to have big games. The Tigers will roll over the Noles and prove to everyone that they are still No.1 regardless of what the voters say.
The Prowl toward a 5th consecutive ACC Title, a 5th consecutive College Football Playoff appearance and 4th National Title continues…….
CLEMSON 48 Florida State 17
Never miss the latest news from CUTigers!
Join our free email list