Previewing Florida State

Forget about forking over $7 for all the preseason magazines devoted to conferences and Top 25 pre-season teams. The only pre-season magazine you need to read is right here online.

Forget about forking over $7 for all the preseason magazines devoted to conferences and Top 25 pre-season teams. The only pre-season magazine you need to read is right here online.

For the next few weeks I will preview each match up the Tigers have this Fall in the order in which the games will be played. The articles will feature items such as key returning players, opponents Strengths, opponents weaknesses, intangibles, an unofficial spread, and of course a prediction.

So save your precious money and stick to Cutigers.com for previews you can use.

Other Previews
Game 1: Georgia Preview
Game 2: Furman Preview
Game 3: Middle Tennessee State Preview
Game 4: Georgia Tech Preview
Game 5: Maryland Preview
Game 6: Virginia Preview
Game 7: North Carolina State Preview
Game 8: North Carolina Preview
Game 9: Wake Forest Preview

The Breakdown
Florida State at Clemson
November 8th, 2003

Bowden Bowl V takes place in Clemson on November 8 with the Tigers on a 2 game winning streak and looking for their 7th win of the season. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden enters this contest with son Tommy with a 4-0 record against his son. If Tommy is going to beat Daddy, he better do it soon. Rumblings continue that this is Papa Bowden's final year in Tallahassee, and son Tommy isn't exactly sitting on a seat packed with snow in Clemson.

Florida State is coming off a 9-5 season overall and a 7-1 conference record that was good enough for another ACC Championship. The Seminoles lost games at Louisville (26-20), at Miami (28-27), versus Notre Dame (34-24), at N.C. State (17-7) and in the Sugar Bowl versus Georgia (26-13)

Florida State defeated Clemson in 2002 48-31 in a game that Clemson kicked themselves over for not winning. The Tigers outplayed Florida State for the entire first half, yet trailed anyway when Greg Jones broke a long run while the Seminoles were trying to run out the clock at the end of the first half. Special teams were also a disaster for the Tigers as a botched punt and a kickoff return by the Seminoles proved too much to overcome.

Joe Kines resigned to become the defensive coordinator at Alabama in the off-season. Kines was replaced by former Baylor head coach Kevin Steele, who will coach linebackers at FSU.

This will be the 10th overall game and the 7th ACC game for Florida State in the 2003 season. The Seminoles open the season at North Carolina on August 30th. FSU then returns home for a three game home stand that includes Maryland, Georgia Tech, and Colorado. The Seminoles then go back on the road to play Duke before returning home for their annual showdown with Miami. After the Miami game, the Seminoles travel to Virginia before returning back home to host Wake Forest. The week before the Clemson game, Florida State travels to South Bend to play Notre Dame.

FSU quarterback Chris Rix returns after the dismissal of Adrian McPherson.
Key Returning Players For The Seminoles
On offense, the Seminoles return junior quarterback Chris Rix. Rix, who was benched midway through the season, returned to lead Florida State past Florida in the regular season finale. Greg Jones returns at running back, assuming he completely recovers from the ACL he tore in November. B.J. Dean is back at fullback, giving the Seminoles an experienced and talented backfield. No starters return at wide receiver, but the Seminoles do have players in P.K. Sam and Craphonso Thorpe that have plenty of snaps under their belt. Only one offensive lineman returns (Ray Willis) from a unit that was arguably the best in the ACC last year.

On defense, Florida State returns 10 starters from a defense that went through growing pains at times last year. On the defensive line, there is a question at to whether Travis Johnson's legal problems will force him to miss time. Tackle Darnell Dockett sat out spring practice but is expected to return for summer workouts. The linebackers in Tallahassee are as good as anywhere in the country, led by Michael Boulware and Kendyll Pope. Allen Augustin also returns at linebacker, giving the Seminoles outstanding starters to complement the depth they have recruited at that position. The secondary was a weakness last year, mainly because the Seminoles had to insert players that had little experience. All four in the secondary return with snaps under their belts, led by the talented Rufus Brown. Brown has the skills to be a big time cornerback, but he has yet to prove it at this point in his career.

Place kicker Xavier Beitia returns after a shaky 2002 campaign.

Florida State Strengths
Florida State is stockpiled at running back, which should be a major strength for the team in 2003. Jones was the best running back in the conference last year before he tore his ACL. Even if he returns at 80% of his former self, he is still talented enough to rush for 1000 yards if he remains healthy. Willie Reid and Leon Washington are very good backups, and many think that red-shirt freshman Lorenzo Booker will push for starting time. True freshman Ernie Sims could play running back, but might move to linebacker because of the glut of talent at FSU.

Just about the entire defensive unit is a strength, but Florida State is especially good at the linebacker position. Boulware and Pope are as good as any linebacker tandem in the conference. These 2 superstars make it almost impossible to consistently run the ball against the Seminoles. Both are strong, and lighting quick.

Florida State Weaknesses
Chris Rix has all the makings of an All-ACC quarterback. Physically, he is as gifted as his predecessors at that position in Tallahassee. But Rix lacks confidence in himself at times, and this has translated into a lack of confidence by his teammates. Bobby Bowden has said Rix was outstanding in the spring, but what else is Papa going to say? The jury is still very much out on Rix, and his backup (Fabian Walker) does not send shivers down opposing team's spine.

The offensive line is young, but talented. The question is…how long will it take for the offensive line to gel? It is almost unheard of for Florida State to start 3 juniors and 2 sophomores on the offensive line, but that is exactly what is going to happen in 2003. How quickly they develop will be a big key to the season for the Seminoles.

There is still a concern that this team has internal issues with the players and coaches. The internal bickering by the players led to Rix being pulled in favor of Adrian McPherson last year. McPherson returned the favor by allegedly throwing games to make a few bucks. Rix then sleeps through a mandatory exam before the bowl game, and hence the starting job gets handed to Fabian Walker. All of these things seem like a streak of bad luck. Maybe they are. Or, maybe this team is spiraling out of control.

In addition to the players bickering, Jeff Bowden did not win over many hearts as the offensive coordinator last year. While the Seminoles were 2nd in the ACC in total offense, they were not ranked in the Top 25 nationally. And the FSU defense, while playing a bunch of young players in 2002, made Mickey Andrews a recipient of heavy criticism. Has this staff worn out its welcome in Tallahassee?

And finally, the schedule is typically brutal for the Seminoles. Non-conference games at home versus Colorado and Miami are squeezed around road games versus Notre Dame and Florida. FSU could be underdogs in as many as 4 games before they play Clemson. If FSU loses those 4 games, will the season be tanked by the time FSU rolls into Death Valley?

Intangibles
Clemson is most certainly due to win one against FSU. The Tigers thought they were the better team last year in Tallahassee, which may or may not be the truth. Regardless, Clemson should have plenty of confidence playing at home versus the Seminoles.

Papa Bowden knows he is on his way out. He also knows his son needs a win against Florida State in the worst way. Would he put a FSU loss to Clemson on a stick for Tommy to take? Most think not. But, as any parent will tell you, there comes a time when the welfare of your children override your own personal interest. If FSU is out of the ACC and National Title hunt by November, it would not shock me to see Papa Bowden bring an uninspired FSU team into Clemson.

This is not a typical Florida State team that will come to Clemson in November. Don't get me wrong, FSU is still very good. They just are not great. They are human, especially on the offensive side of the ball. While beating them would be a big win for Clemson, it would not be considered a major upset by any means. They don't intimidate like they used to, and that has caused other teams to fare a little better against them. Clemson will not be in awe of the Seminoles on November 8th.

Unofficial Spread
Florida State will be favored in the 2-5 point range.

Prediction Clemson knocks off the Seminoles, 27-24 for their first win over FSU since 1989. Similar to the Georgia game earlier in the season, this one just sets up nicely for the Tigers. Clemson will secure a winning season and bowl berth by knocking off the Seminoles in a close game. To further my prediction, it will be the last head to head match up of the father and son, as Papa will retire following the 2003 season.

Clemson improves to 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the ACC. The Tigers will have a chance to secure a winning ACC record when Duke comes to town next week. I addition, the Tigers move back into the Top 25 at #24.


Scott Rhymer can be reached at scottrhymer@msn.com. Scott and CUTigers.com publisher Roy Philpott are the co-hosts of the CUTigers.com Pregame Show on WCCP 104.9 FM, which airs 2 hours prior to the Tiger Tailgate Show on Clemson Gamedays.

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