By Gray Gardner.
CLEMSON, S.C. – Saturday afternoon marks the first game of conference play for the Clemson Tigers as the Florida State Seminoles come to town. The Seminoles, ranked as high as number eleven in the country, are coming off a close loss to number one Oklahoma – a loss in which the Seminoles defense allowed only two scores.
But the Clemson offense is coming off a stellar performance as well, recording over 600 yards of total offense against Auburn a week ago. So how will the Tigers offense fare against the Seminole defense? The Clemson Insider previews the match up for Saturday.
Last Week in Review: Clemson Offense
Chad Morris finally had his offense running the way it’s supposed to be run. Against Auburn, Morris’ team put up 624 yards of total offense. Quarterback Tajh Boyd continued to impress, completing 71% of his passes for 386 yards and 4 touchdowns. Boyd hit an array of targets last Saturday, as seven different players caught passes, five of whom ended the day with more than 20 yards receiving.
The Tigers also impressed on the ground, finishing with 238 yards rushing. It was a group effort here as well, with five different players carrying the ball – all of whom gained more than 30 yards rushing.
Although starting slow, the Clemson offense came back from a 14-point deficit to outscore Auburn 38-10 after the first quarter.
Last Week in Review: Florida State Defense
Despite losing to top-ranked Oklahoma, many positives can be said of the Florida State defense. The group allowed just over 300 yards of total offense to the Sooners and only two touchdowns, holding the nation’s best to 3 field goals.
The Seminoles held OU’s backs to only 2.8 yards per rush and intercepted Sooner quarterback Landry Jones twice. Oklahoma’s final score came on a turnover late in the game that set the Sooners up with great field position.
Florida State’s defense totaled 5 tackles for loss Saturday and recorded one sack. Bjoern Werner led the way up front with 6 tackles – 2 for a loss – and the team’s only recorded sack. Corner back Mike Harris and linebacker Nigel Bradham led the team in tackles with 9 apiece.
-Clemson’s Receivers vs. Florida State’s Secondary
If there’s been one constant through three games for the Tigers, it’s the receiving corps. The group has consistently made plays on a game-by-game basis. It goes without saying that true freshman Sammy Watkins is more than impressive. He already has 21 receptions for 296 yards and 4 touchdowns with 3 plays of over 20 yards. Sophomore DeAndre Hopkins has been Mr. Dependable, catching everything that has come his way for 191 yards and 2 scores. Jaron Brown and tight-end Dwayne Allen have each impressed this season and have made big plays at crucial points in the game.
The Seminoles have a lot of talent in the secondary, but showed vulnerability a week ago against Oklahoma. In that game, Sooner quarterback Landry Jones completed 67% of his passes, and although he did throw two interceptions, was able to connect on a 37-yard touchdown pass late in the game when it mattered most.
For the season, Florida State’s pass defense has been outstanding, ranking sixth overall in the country. But those statistics came largely from their first two games against Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern. The Tigers’ talented wide outs and tight ends will have the advantage over the Seminoles’ secondary.
-Florida State’s Defensive Line vs. Clemson’s Offensive Line
Although Clemson’s line had a field day a week ago versus Auburn, it’s safe to say that Florida State’s defensive front will offer much more of a challenge. The Seminoles’ defensive line showed against Oklahoma that they are strong, they are fast, and that they are fierce. Clemson’s offensive line will have anti-up on the toughness level if they hope to keep Florida State’s big men out of the backfield.
On the season, the Seminoles have recorded 24.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, and have hurried the quarterback 5 times. Their rushing defense ranks 17th in the nation and has allowed an average of only 77 yards a game on the ground.
Clemson’s offensive front has already allowed 15 tackles for loss and 7 sacks this season, and have often been referred to as “soft.” Given these facts, Florida State’s defensive line has an unprecedented advantage against the Tigers’ offensive front.
Florida State’s defense is good. Really good. At least on paper. The Seminoles are 5th in the nation in total defense, 6th in pass defense, and 12th in scoring defense. They have allowed a total of only 3 touchdowns this season, an impressive statistic regardless of who they’ve played.
Clemson has been impressive on the other side of the ball. The Tigers rank 9th in the country in total offense, 11th in pass efficiency, and are in the top 25 in both passing offense and scoring offense. The bright spot for the Tigers is that they have improved in each of their last two games.
The match up seems very even across the board, with only slight advantages for each team at differing positions. But at the end of the day, the scoreboard will be a reflection of Clemson’s offensive line’s performance against a more talented front.
If the Tigers’ line comes with more toughness than they have shown in previous weeks and give Tajh Boyd time to throw and Andre Ellington room to run, then Clemson’s offense should outscore the Seminoles. But, if the Seminoles prove tougher and spend the afternoon in the backfield, it could be a very long day for Chad Morris’ Tigers.