CLEMSON - FSU: Forget the stats

CLEMSON - A quick glance at Florida State's defensive stats this season leads one to believe the Tigers aer going to have a field day Saturday night. Don't tell that to Jacoby Ford, or anybody else on the Clemson football team, however.

Ford, along with nearly every other member of Clemson's offense, respects the Florida State defense despite the national statistic rankings.

Ford told CUTigers this week he believes there's a "sleeping giant" in Tallahassee- a defense that's led by one of the game's most respected defensive coordinators. Earlier this week, Mickey Andrews' announced he'll retire after 26 seasons as Florida State's defensive coordinator.

There could be a little extra motivation on the Florida State sideline Saturday night.

"(He) does a great job with his defense," Ford said. "He's a very aggressive defensive coordinator, so I know he's going to try to come after us and give us some different looks that we probably haven't seen before."

With all due respect to Andrews, the numbers that Florida State's defense has given up this year are too gaudy to overlook.

The Seminoles are 109th in total defense (429 yards/game) and 93rd in scoring defense (30 points/game).

Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney doesn't buy into the stats. Earlier this week, he said they can be balled up, thrown into a trash can and set on fire.

"Saturday night is all that matters, period," he said. "What happens for four quarters- it doesn't matter where they are ranked in stats and all that stuff."

Swinney believes some of the struggles by the Seminole defense are due to injuries to two of "their true leaders". He mentioned the loss of defensive tackle Budd Thacker, who sat out several games because a toe and knee injury, and linebacker Dekoda Watson, whose been slowed by a groin injury.

"All of a sudden, you kind of maybe start searching to see who's your leader, and who's going to step up," Swinney said. "They've done a much better job here lately."

Florida State is 101st in rushing defense (183 yards/game). After holding Miami and Jacksonville State below 100 yards of team rushing, every opponent since has gained at least 100 yards of team rushing.

There's young pair or interior defensive linemen for Florida State that are slated to start on Saturday. Nose tackle Jacobbi McDaniel and defensive tackle Everett Dawkins are both freshman (Dawkins a red-shirt).

"They're very talented guys who are continuing to get better," said Thomas Austin, who expects to see at least five or six different defensive tackles on Saturday.

Much like opposing offenses are faced with when preparing for the Clemson defensive line, Austin and his peers on the Clemson front will have to do their fair share of scouting.

"As far as the young guys, they're very athletic and play with high motors and are continuing to improve on their technique and redirection--stuff that makes you a better player," Austin said.

Florida State is 97th in pass defense (246 yards/game).

Clemson wide receiver coach Jeff Scott said the Seminole secondary is as good as any the Tigers have seen this season.

"For whatever reason, they've gotten beat on some big plays," he said. "But they've also showed, at times, that they've made some good plays."

Against its last three ACC opponents, Florida State has shown susceptibility to big plays through the air.

Against N.C. State, Russell Wilson connected with Owen Spencer for an 80-yard score. Georgia Tech's Josh Nesbitt hooked up Demaryius Thomas for a 73-yard score. Boston College hit on a 62-yard pass from Dave Shinskie to Colin Larmond Jr.

Scott sees the matchup with the Florida State secondary as a "good challenge."

"Those guys have a lot of experience in the secondary. They might have been in a slump this year," he said. "But those guys have played good football, some for three or four years."

When Ford thinks back to the matchup against Maryland, whose defense isn't statistically impressive either, Clemson averaged less than four yards per play. The only other time this season the Tigers averaged less than four yards per play in a game--against Boston College.

He thinks the "chunk" plays are a must this Saturday.

"They're fast and they can run from sideline to sideline to cover you very well. You've just got to be disciplined when you play a team like this," Ford said.

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