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I’m not buying FSU hype, Clemson still team to beat in ACC

It is that time of year again. It’s the annual time when everyone tells us how great Florida State is and how its football team is the one to fear the most in the ACC.

I guess if it is thrown up against the wall enough at some point it is going to stick. The problem is I’m not buying it, which that in and of itself is becoming a yearly thing for me.

Don’t get me wrong. Overall, I think the Seminoles will have another strong team in 2017, but I don’t believe they will be national championship contenders.

I think Clemson has a better shot, even with a new quarterback and a new set of skill players than FSU has. Why? Just compare the two teams up front.

The Tigers are still the better team in the trenches, and overall, I believe they have the better defense. Yes, the Seminoles have Deondre Francois returning as quarterback, but who on that offense, right now, scares you? Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud and Deon Cain put more fear in defensive coordinators’ hearts than anyone FSU has.

Yes, Florida State is talented. It has some talented football players on its team. It recruits at a high level. I know all of that and understand that, but the one area the Jimbo Fisher and his coaches have missed on the last few years is on the offensive line.

Last year, the Seminoles allowed 36 sacks, which ranked 13th in the ACC and 108th nationally. Granted, they did a better job running the football, averaging 5.1 yards per carry with 33 rushing touchdowns, but even with the best running back in the country in Dalvin Cook and a talented young quarterback in Francois, the Seminoles were still just third in the ACC in total offense and fourth in scoring offense.

Why? They could not protect their quarterback.

Why is Fisher out there saying officials and the NCAA have to do a better job of taking care of quarterbacks than they did his quarterback last year? Because his quarterback is about to get roughed up again this season and he wants to put that thought in the officials’ head so he might get a few roughing the passer penalties when in reality most of the shots his quarterback took last year were legal hits.

If Fisher wants to prevent his quarterback from getting hurt, than do a better job of protecting him instead of trying to get a few freebee first downs.

The offensive line does not look any better in 2017. The Seminoles have to replace the entire left side of the line and they did not bring in anyone in the 2017 recruiting class that will be ready to contribute this fall.

Overall, the offense returns six starters, but it has to replace Cook and two wide receivers.

The defense is a different story. Yes it will lose All-American defensive end DeMarcus Walker, but everyone else is back, including All-Everything safety Derwin James, who missed 10 games last year due to a knee injury. James was a first-team All-American as a true freshman in 2015.

Like Clemson, Florida State’s defense will have to carry its team early on, and it can for the most part. But there are too many questions on offense and the offensive line does not seem like it is going to be any better.

The Tigers on the other hand return four starters on an offensive line that handled itself well in the latter half of the season. Keep in mind they held their own against Ohio State and Alabama in the College Football Playoff, two of the best defensive lines in the country in 2016.

Will the loss of Jay Guillermo at center be difficult to replace? Absolutely! However, Clemson played three true freshmen on its offensive line last year, and though there were some growing pains at times, the Tigers allowed just 13 sacks in the regular season, tops in the ACC at the time.

Clemson’s offensive line, right now, appears to be in better overall shape than FSU’s, while the Tigers’ defensive line might have a slight edge overall the ‘Noles. Also, keep in mind the Seminoles come to Death Valley in mid-November, another plus for the Tigers.

The bottom line is this. Until Florida State gets better on the O-Line, I’m not buying the hype. Clemson, in my mind, is still the team to beat in the ACC.

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