By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
Leaning back in my recliner, cool in my den thanks to Carrier, it occurred to me that the Clemson-Florida State game might be bigger than all the Bowden Bowls combined.
Beating the Old Man probably helped Tommy keep his job long enough for Dabo Swinney to emerge as a viable replacement, but this game should be so big its impact will not be fully appreciated until much later.
Clemson needs to first deal with Boston College, which becomes a challenge only if the Tigers depart from what worked the first five games. Until the final two minutes of the first half at Syracuse, they looked every bit like a national contender. Failing to push into the end zone on fourth down was a bit embarrassing after leading Syracuse up and down the field on a string.
It pissed off Syracuse, and it showed as the Orange opened the second half with a touchdown drive and threatened twice again in the third quarter until Tajh Boyd delivered the fatal shot with that 91-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins.
Other than the touchdown drive, any surge of momentum was quashed by the Clemson defense. Forsaking the run after falling behind by four touchdowns in the first half, Syracuse was unable to cobble together a sustained passing game finishing with 397 total yards, 74 passing on 12 of 29. Syracuse sophomore Terrel Hunt, who said he wanted to be the superior No. 10 at quarterback Saturday, was harried and hurried and intercepted three times.
For a team that took great joy in trumpeting their successes against teams with big-name quarterbacks the past three seasons, Syracuse looked downright baffled by much of what Clemson rolled out. As anticipated, Syracuse threw every blitz imaginable and Clemson’s line responded with a solid performance. Clemson countered with body punches, quick short passes and runs, to set up big hits to Adam Humphries (twice), Martavis Bryant and Watkins.
The 158 rushing yards — largely from Zac Brooks, Rod McDowell and C.J. Davidson –complemented Boyd’s 20 of 27 for 455 yards, a statistically impressive performance marred only by the season’s first two interceptions.
As Dabo Swinney weighs the net results of the game, a few things should strike him as they prepare for Boston College. Syracuse was the next in a string of physical teams on the schedule, and it took a toll that Clemson cannot afford long term. Boyd’s hand, Watkins’ hip and the others become a bigger concern entering BC week when you remember that Florida State doesn’t have a game this week.
FSU was relentless in breaking an undefeated Maryland team that earned a spot in the AP poll with a 37-0 win last week over West Virginia. One of the sweeties at ESPN actually put FSU and Clemson on the “upset watch,” and probably will do it again this week, contending that Clemson will be looking ahead.
Anybody who saw Jameis Winston (393 yards and five touchdowns) and the FSU defense surgically disassemble Maryland understands that Clemson can’t go into that game with one hand tied behind its back. And there won’t be any consideration for sitting Boyd or Watkins this week. So it again becomes critical that, as it did in each of the last two games, Clemson jumps on BC quickly – with both feet – then turns the carcass to the scout team.
Florida State is coming, and it might be bigger than we imagined in August when everybody could see it might be a significant intersection in the schedule.
How big? Might be a while before we know for sure?
So you wonder, could the ACC champion, national champion and Heisman Trophy winner be determined on the same afternoon in Death Valley?
That’s the kind of fantasizing that comes from an afternoon in an easy chair.