KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
KEYS TO THE GAMEFor Florida State: Establish a running game. This is especially true if QB E.J. Manuel can't play because of his shoulder injury. That also would run some clock and take some of the pressure off the defense against Clemson's high-powered offense.
For Clemson: Hit some big plays. As good as the Tigers have been offensively, they are up against one of the country's best defenses and will be hardpressed to put together sustained drives. Putting pressure on FSU freshman QB Clint Trickett could pay big dividends for the defense.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS
Florida State is tied with Duke, next to last, for rushing offense in the ACC. In three games, two against far lesser opponents than Oklahoma, the Seminoles are averaging just 96.3 rushing yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. This was not expected with a veteran group on the offensive line. But the unit did not practice together in the spring because so many were rehabbing injuries, and the same problems reoccurred during preseason camp. The Seminoles don't have the kind of depth along the line where other players have stepped forward. The backups are newcomers.
On defense, the Seminoles have given up just 33 points in three games, second fewest in the ACC, and they rank No. 5 in total defense. But there have been some flaws. CB Greg Reid returned to one of his bad habits in biting on a deep route that led to Oklahoma's game-clinching touchdown last week. LB Nigel Bradham was twice flagged for personal foul penalties. Late in the game, the Seminoles showed some vulnerability with runs up the middle. But overall, this group has played well and gives FSU hope that trend continues at Clemson.
Clemson has the ACC's second-most productive offense (522.7 yards per game), with a nice balance between run (216.7) and pass (306.0). Sophomore QB Tajh Boyd is an efficient passer in his first year as a starter with 68 completions in 101 attempts (one interception, 10 touchdowns). Freshman WR Sammy Watkins has a league high 21 catches, with four of them going for touchdowns. RB Andre Ellington is an explosive runner with power. He has 300 yards rushing in three games.
Defensively, Clemson has shown some vulnerability. The Tigers have been gouged for nearly 225 yards a game on the ground. Wofford ran for 272, which is 35 more than Auburn managed the next week. The Tigers have only two sacks, but they are plus-two in turnover margin. DE Aundre Branch has 22 tackles and S Jonathan Meeks 21 to lead in that category. Branch and LB Anthony Stephone have the only sacks.
Seminoles: The Seminoles will play a ranked opponent for the fifth time in their past seven games when they visit Clemson. ... The Seminoles lead the series with Clemson overall but have lost the last four times they have visited Death Valley. ... Florida State ranks fifth nationally in total defense, giving up only 195 yards per game, but faces a huge challenge in Clemson's offense. The Tigers are averaging 522.7 yards a game ... This will be Florida State's first road game. The 'Noles averaged better than 30 points a game away from home in 2010. ... WR Rashad Greene, a true freshman, is tied for the national lead in receiving TDs by freshmen with four. Greene has six career catches, four of which have been touchdowns of 28 or more yards. ... K Dustin Hopkins' 53-yard field goal in the first quarter against Oklahoma was his fourth career 50-yard field goal. It's the fourth most in school history. He is 4 of 7 from 52 yards or more.
Tigers: Clemson lost 14 of the first 16 meetings with Florida State but now has won five of the last eight. The most surprising Tigers win in the series came in 2003, when they were coming off a 45-17 loss at Wake Forest and beat the then third-ranked Seminoles 26-10. The 'Noles had beaten Notre Dame the week before. ... The games from 1999-2007 were known as the Bowden Bowl, with coach Bobby Bowden at FSU and son Tommy at Clemson. Bobby held a 5-4 advantage in the meetings. ... Clemson has an all-time record of 34-23-1 in ACC openers but has lost its last two to Georgia Tech in 2009 and to Miami in 2010. ... The Tigers are only 1-3 in league openers when the opponent has been Florida State. ... Clemson had at least 200 yards rushing and at least 200 passing in its last two games. The Tigers had 624 yards in total offense against Auburn in their last game.
Seminoles: Manuel (shoulder, questionable), Reid (knee, questionable), WR Jarred Haggins (hand, out), WR Kenny Shaw (concussion, questionable), WR Bert Reed (ankle, questionable), WR Willie Haulstead (concussion, out), WR Josh Gehres (knee, out), G Henry Orelus (concussion, out).
Saturday Snapshot: 'Noles vs. Tigers
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