GAME: No. 19 Florida State (0-0) at Clemson (0-0)
LOCATION: Clemson, S.C., Memorial Stadium (81,474)
SPREAD: Florida State (-3)
COACHES: Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden is 60-38 (78-42 overall) and 3-5 against Florida State. Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden is 293-81-4 (366-113-4 overall) during his 31 years at Florida State including a 14-5 record against the Tigers.
SERIES: Florida State has a 15-5 advantage in the series with Clemson, but the Tigers have won three of the last four meetings, including last year's 27-20 in Tallahassee. The Tigers have also won the last two meetings in Death Valley, 26-10 in 2003 and 35-14 in 2005.
CLEMSON KEY PLAYER: QB Cullen Harper. Harper takes control of a Clemson offense with plenty of weapons, including two of the top running backs in the country in James Davis and C.J. Spiller. Harper must manage the game and take his chances downfield when given the opportunity in order to prevent FSU from packing eight in the box.
FLORIDA STATE KEY PLAYER: QB Drew Weatherford. Weatherford beat out Xavier Lee during the preseason and could play the entire game Monday night. Has he been able to grasp enough of new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher's offense to lead the 'Noles back to the ACC Championship game?
FORECAST: Mainly sunny. High near 90 degrees. Winds out of the northeast at 5 to 10 mph.
INJURIES: Clemson - RB Ray Ray McElrathbey (ACL) out, LB Brandon Maye (foot) doubtful. Florida State - FB Joe Surratt (fibula) out, C Dumaka Atkins (knee) out.
* Depth Chart
* What We are Hearing...
* Game Notes
* On the Record: Mark Buchholz
* Something to Prove
* 3 Keys to Victory
* No More Excuses in Tallahassee
* On the Record: Thomas Austin
* Clemson Beat Pick 'Em
* On the Record: C.J. Spiller
* On the Record: Cullen Harper
* Jeff Davis to be Honored Monday Night
* Thursday Practice Report
* Wednesday Bowden Audio
* Tuesday Football Notebook
* Tuesdays with Vic
* Tommy Bowden's Press Conference
FSU QUOTE TO NOTE: "Neither one frightens me. At all. I mean, those guys, we have guys in our backfield that's just as dangerous if not even [more] dangerous. "Antone's better hands down. I've seen Antone play and I know what he can do. I played against [Davis and Spiller] last year. Wasn't anything spectacular." -- FSU defensive end Neefy Moffett on Clemson's James Davis and C.J. Spiller
CLEMSON QUOTE TO NOTE: "I told my mom because she was a little upset after the game that I was a freshman. Right now I think I'm in negative yardage against Florida State. Hopefully that will change come Labor Day. But it was just being so young, learning a new system, playing against a defense like that, Coach Spence really didn't want to put me out there and get my confidence that low." -- C.J. Spiller on his performance last year at Florida State when he rushed for -4 yards and two carries.
WHAT TO WATCH: When Clemson has the Ball - The spotlight will be on James Davis and C.J. Spiller but can Cullen Harper be enough of a threat in the passing game to keep eight men out of the box? That will likely be the question that dictates Clemson's success throughout the 2007 season. The spotlight will also be on the Tigers' revamped offensive line, which had to replace four starters from last year's season opening lineup. The good news is each of the four replacements all have experience, including Chris McDuffie who started the second half of the 2006 season at right guard at Roman Fry tore his ACL. Clemson will also use creative ways to try and get its playmakers the ball- which means C.J. Spiller and James Davis could line up in multiple positions Monday night. Defensively Florida State will play mostly man coverage with star corner Tony Carter providing outstanding cover skills and rover Myron Rolle earning a reputation as one of the best in the country. The Seminoles also have the fastest linebackers in the ACC, led by Geno Hayes and Derek Nicholson. Another future high round draft pick anchors the middle of the line in Andre Fluellen.
When Florida State has the Ball - Florida State has excellent wide receivers in DeCody Fagg and Greg Carr. Both present matchup problems, especially for 5-9 cornerback Chris Chancellor. The key for Clemson defensively is getting pressure on QB Drew Weatherford, who has struggled throughout his career in an offense that has lacked an identity. Expect Florida State to hand the ball off to Antone Smith extensively, but word is out of Tallahassee Fisher will have his team use the passing game to setup Smith later in the evening. In other words, Weatherford and Fagg will test Clemson's young secondary early in the game. Florida State will also use multiple personnel groupings and use a log of play-action passing under new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. Defensively, the Tigers have one of the best front sevens in the conference with plenty of depth on the defensive line. It will critical for the Tigers to find the pass-rushing presence left by the No. 4 overall pick in the draft earlier this year- Gaines Adams. Ricky Sapp has potential, but is still very young. End Phillip Merling has been the star of the offseason and could be the answer here. Clemson will rely mostly on zone coverage, using a similar zone-blitz package as last season. The return of SAM linebacker Tramaine Billie will be key here as he is expected to be central in Clemson's pass rush.
Special Teams - After last year's struggles in the kicking game, special teams have been a priority for Clemson. Kicker Mark Buchholz has been tremendous during preseason camp with consistent deep kickoffs and pin-point accuracy on field goal attempts back to 55 yards, but he still must prove himself under the biggest of spotlights Monday night. He will handle field goals, extra points and kickoffs. Former walk-on Jimmy Maners will be the punter. The return game could be an advantage for the Tigers, who will start C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford on the return teams. Senior Gary Cismesia gives the 'Noles a reliable option at kicker while junior Graham Gano will be the punter. Last year Florida State kept the game close by returning a blocked extra-point and field goal back for scores.
Intangibles - Clemson dominated Florida State at home in 2003 and 2005 and has seemingly closed the talent gap that existed throughout the 1990's through the early part of this decade. After last year's win in Tallahassee, Clemson's first since 1989, the Tigers have now won three of their last four games against FSU. But all of that is in the past. The Tigers must execute at a higher level that what was seen during the end of the 2006 season when they lost four out of five games, including extremely winnable contests against Maryland, South Carolina and Kentucky. Clemson does not have to play perfect to win this game, but it can ill-afford to play poorly and expect positive results.
TIGERS WIN IF... The young corners keep a re-vamped FSU passing game in check or the front seven harass Weatherford all night. Offensively, Clemson needs C.J. Spiller and/or James Davis go over 100 yards rushing and Cullen Harper must manage the game while completing a handful of downfield throws.
SEMINOLES WIN IF... FSU's defensive front dominates Clemson's new offensive line or Jimbo Fisher truly is a miracle worker and has turned this offense around in a matter of months instead of years. If Antone Smith has a big day, that could also spell trouble.
PREDICTION: Clemson 27 Florida State 17
BOTTOM LINE: Clemson catches Florida State at the perfect time, the first game of the Jimbo Fisher era. The 'Noles will be much more formidable later in the season, but on the road in a hostile environment may too much to ask of a quarterback who lacks confidence in a new offensive system.
PRE-GAME SHOW INFO: The Tiger Pre-game Show with Roy Philpott and Scott Rhymer will be broadcasting live Monday afternoon from 2:00 to 5:00 PM at the Lawn at Littlejohn. Tune in to 104.9 WCCP FM in upstate South Carolina or on the world wide web on wccpfm.com as we celebrate our 50th consecutive game broadcasting on location covering your Clemson Tigers.
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