With eyes on the most important football game of the season, here is our Five for Friday:
1. One of the most overlooked factors in Saturday’s game may happen at the coin toss. Clemson has received the opening kickoff in 16 consecutive games. Florida State enjoys the opportunity to score before and after halftime, so it likes to kick off first. I think it’s a pretty safe assumption Clemson will be getting the ball first.
More important, however, might be which end of the field each team defends. If Clemson wins the toss, knowing Florida State wants to kick and it wants to receive, it might be a good idea to choose to defend the west end zone. If the roles are reversed, the Seminoles would be wise to do the same.
As a freshman entering a hostile environment for the first time, putting Jameis Winston on the side of the field with the student section—including the Hill— as he takes his first snap would be a nightmare for the Seminoles. In the case of a fourth-quarter drive, Winston would then have to drive right into the teeth of the students.
It would be easier, in theory, if Winston could start with the Nole fans at his back and driving toward his own band and fans in the fourth quarter. It might not be a factor at all, but it’s definitely worth considering when the coin is flipped.
2. Losing Garry Peters makes Clemson’s task a whole lot tougher. Peters was thrust into action last season before the coaching staff thought he was ready due to injuries at cornerback, but he filled in admirably and was considered an unexpected bright spot on the 2012 defensive unit.
This year, the Tigers have remained healthy at corner—at least, until Peters injured his foot at practice on Wednesday. Now the Tigers will go into a game where they will almost certainly be threatened in the passing game from start to finish without a key member of the coverage crew.
Clemson still has good enough players to hang with the FSU receivers. Bashaud Breeland, Darius Robinson, and Martin Jenkins have all proven valuable this season, and freshman Korrin Wiggins has held down the nickel spot pretty well. But you want your team to be at full strength at critical junctures of the season, and having an injury pop up 72 hours prior to a season-defining game is certainly not ideal.
3. Here’s a fun stat about how top-heavy the SEC is. This comes courtesy of ESPN.com’s Chris Low: Since the start of the 2012 season, the top six teams in the conference—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina, and Texas A&M—are 43-1 against the bottom eight teams in the league. The only win came courtesy of Missouri, who beat a Georgia team last week that closely resembled a bottom-eight squad in personnel.
Talk about parity.
Four of the upper echelon teams are on the road against bottom-eight teams this week, so they should feel pretty confident if history is any indication. But any lingering notions that the SEC is a strong top-to-bottom league should be immediately dismissed as foolishness.
4. If Stephen Morris and Bryn Renner are NFL quarterbacks, the league is about to fall on hard times. I have watched those guys play a number of times and have no idea what all the fuss is about with these two.
Last night was a perfect example. Renner looks physically strong but plays like a weakling. His arm strength resembles a Pop Warner quarterback just finishing up elementary school. For a guy with so much promise at the prep level, he has really fizzled out in my opinion.
Morris is gifted as a thrower and stands tall in the pocket, but he is a chucker in every sense of the word. He overthrew receivers by multiple counties at times last night and seems to have an inability to actually use his brain to read a defense. He also displays the most horrific mechanics you’ll ever see from a guy who looks the part when he is under duress.
So, please, hapless NFL franchise, use an early draft pick on a guy with a noodle arm and zero mobility or a guy whose main weaknesses are “passing” and “thinking”. The rest of the league will send you fruit baskets.
5. Going for the sound record is interesting and fun, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t work out. I was at the Clemson-Miami game in 2005. I was a part of the crowd that broke the record the first time, at 126.6 decibels.
I was in the press box in 2007, when the crowd reached 133 decibels. I can’t imagine anything much louder than that.
If Clemson is able to best the Chiefs’ 137.5 set last week against the Raiders, it would be yet another testament to the impact the crowd at Memorial Stadium can have at a game. If not, it’s no big deal.
Death Valley will still be the loudest stadium in the country this weekend.