Jones Under 75
Despite Greg Jones' paltry numbers last week in Louisville, he holds the key to the game Thursday evening. Jones runs behind a big, experienced offensive line that may start as many as 5 seniors. And Jones is certainly no stranger to the Tigers, breaking an electrifying run around right end last year for a touchdown that effectively ended the game.
Florida State is vulnerable on offense when they become one-dimensional. Chris Rix is a quality quarterback, but without a running attack, his flaws are magnified. If Clemson can keep Greg Jones from controlling the clock and chewing up yardage, Clemson should be able to take their shots at Rix when he drops back to pass.
The brunt of the responsibility of stopping Jones will fall to the Clemson defensive line. Bryant McNeal, Donnell Washington, and Khaleed Vaughn are maybe the three most important players on the field Thursday night for Clemson. Their #1 job…stop Greg Jones.
Other than Yohance Buchanan, the Florida State secondary is made up of players that most of us have never heard of: Rufus Brown, Stanford Samuels, and Jerome Carter are not exactly household names, and maybe never will be. This is not the secondary of old in Tallahassee that can single handedly dominate a game.
But picking apart the Seminoles underneath will not be enough to win Thursday night. Willie Simmons will have to throw the ball downfield and earn the deep threat respect from the FSU secondary.
In steps Airese Currie. If there ever were a time for a guy to break out of a sophomore slump, it would be Thursday night for the speedy Columbia native. His ability to stretch the defense will be critical in helping force the Noles to require help on the corners. Big play throws and catches need to be made early and often, and if they are, expect the Tigers to return to home winners.
Punt And Kick ‘Em Good
Oh, to be great on special teams. If we could only wish for such. Thursday night will offer the opportunity, or challenge, for the kicking game to display flawless execution. When Clemson gets within the 40-yard line, Aaron Hunt needs to be counted on to drill every field goal he attempts. Stephen Furr needs to kick the ball into the FSU end zone every time in order to reduce the quality field position a return could yield. And Wynn Kopp needs to average better than 40 yards a kick while pinning the Seminoles back inside the 20-yard line when appropriate.
And while the coverage teams have been much improved since Athens, they will be challenged once again in covering the speedy return specialist of the Seminoles. And let's face it, a great return or two by Derrick Hamilton would not hurt our chances either.
Be The Tricker…Not The Trickee
When you put these two Bowdens on the same field, there are bound to be a few tricks up each other's sleeves that will be dealt sometime during the game. Add that to the fact that Florida State is still smarting from their loss to Louisville, and I get the impression that Papa Bowden may be eyeing one of his blue light specials Thursday night.
Even two years ago in Tallahassee, Chris Weinke ran that great play action pass from the shadow of the goalposts that proved to be a momentum switcher. While not officially under the category of trickery, the play certainly caught Clemson, and the national audience, by surprise.
While Clemson could probably spring the upset Thursday night without using trickery, they most certainly will not win if the Seminoles are successful in the trickery department. So being on guard the entire game will be crucial because FSU will be out to pull a magic trick…maybe even more than once.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Forgive our players if they are a little fired up this week. The optimism of the spring, the two a days, and the first 4 games of the season will bubble over in Tallahassee for the players Thursday night.
But this year, Clemson belongs on the same field as the Seminoles and they need to act like it from the start. There should be no great thrill derived by just playing the Seminoles like in years past. This year the team should play like they deserve to be in Tallahassee vying for the ACC lead.
The quicker Clemson settles down and plays under control, the quicker success will follow. This is not a game that should get out of hand by any stretch of the imagination and I fully expect Clemson to be leading this game in the second half at some point.
How the Tigers react to that position remains unclear at this point. Sealing the deal may mean the difference between coming home 2-0 in the ACC, or coming home with yet another "moral" victory.
The talent gap between FSU and Clemson is at its closest point since Ken Hatfield hooked up with the Seminoles back in 1992. Yet at the same time, Florida State still has more talent top to bottom than the Tigers.
I think this team is ready to play. I think this team will play well enough to win the game. But, I also think Florida State will play the best game of their young year. The loss to Louisville has focused the Seminoles to the point where they will be clicking on all cylinders. I expect a well-played game from both teams. Clemson just needs the Seminoles to not play their absolute best…which I fear they will.
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