Florida State at Clemson: The Matchups

This Saturday night the biggest game in ACC history takes place. No. 5 Florida State heads to Death Valley to take on the No. 3 Clemson Tigers. With College Gameday in town and the eyes of the entire nation on this game, it is a chance for one team to make its case for a national title.

Florida State Offense:

Florida State quarterback + receivers vs. Clemson secondary

Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston is completing 73% of his passes with an incredible 11.8 yard per attempt average. He also has 17 touchdowns to only two interceptions. An incredible 13 Seminoles have caught passes so far this season. The receiving corps led by Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw, and Kelvin Benjamin have been very efficient so far this season. Greene, Shaw, and Benjamin are all averaging over 17.5 yards per catch. Tight end Nick O'Leary is leading the nation in touchdowns for his position with five and is also averaging over 12 yards per catch. Florida State is 18th in the nation in passing offense averaging 320 passing yards per game. Clemson, on the other hand, has intercepted 10 passes so far this season and give up only four touchdowns. The secondary only allows 186 passing yards per game. Darius Robinson leads the Tigers with three interceptions on the season. So far this season Clemson has played quite a bit of zone depending on their pass rush to affect the quarterback's rhythm.

EDGE: Florida State

Clemson has not seen a passing offense as talented or as efficient as the one they will be up against Saturday. They do not have the corners to play man and if given time Winston should be able to pick them apart.

Florida State running backs vs. Clemson linebackers

The Florida State rushing offense is averaging 228 yards per game, which is good enough for 17th in the nation. Devonta Freeman is leading the rushing attack with 385 yards and a 7.1 yards per rush average with two touchdowns. Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr. are at 8.7 and 5.9 yards per carry respectively. Williams currently leads the team with six rushing touchdowns including a 65 yard touchdown on his first carry as a running back. Jameis Winston is also a threat to run and has 135 yards on the season.

Clemson is giving up 158 yards per game on the ground which is 64th in the nation. They have given up 10 rushing touchdowns so far this season. Their opponents are rushing for 3.94 yards per carry. Clemson leads the nation in tackles for loss per game with 10.2. Spencer Shuey is the leader of their line backing unit and leads their team with 43 tackles.

EDGE: Florida State

Florida State gets the edge here with Clemson being susceptible to the run especially to the outside. With the threat of Jameis Winston and the pass Clemson will not be able to load the box like they have done the last few weeks against Syracuse and Boston College. The Clemson linebackers have trouble fighting off blocks that get to the second level and that should be the case Saturday.

Florida State offensive line vs. Clemson Defensive line

Florida State has given up 26 tackles for loss and nine sacks this season. The Florida State offensive line is an experienced unit with each player having over 12 starts to his name. This unit will get a boost as Bryan Stork comes back from a concussion. The most surprising player on the line has been Bobby Hart who started all of 2011 but was benched in favor of Menelik Watson in 2012. He is playing very well and holding down the right tackle spot. The left tackle play is questionable. Cam Erving, who some thought had first round NFL potential, has been having trouble this season. Specifically against speed rushers where he tends to not move his feet and lunge.

Erving will be up against the best speed rusher in college football Vic Beasley. Clemson is leading the nation in sacks per game with 4 and has 24 overall. Nine of those come from speed rusher Vic Beasley, which is good enough to lead the nation. The interior of the line might not get all the accolades that the ends do, but they are the heart of this defense. Grady Jarrett is continually in the back field and making plays. Florida State's interior line will have their hands full.

EDGE: Clemson

The Florida State offensive line will have their biggest test of the season so far with this much improved Clemson defensive line. Florida State will have to scheme around Beasley and work more quick passes into the game. Rushing lanes will be clogged by the Clemson Defensive line and Florida State will more than likely have to use the pass to open up the rush. When Beasley is not in the game Clemson does have trouble getting to the quarterback. Lining up a tight end next to Erving and continually chipping Beasley would help neutralize him greatly.

Florida State Offense vs. Clemson defense overall

Behind Jameis Winston the Seminole offense is rolling. They are averaging almost 550 yards per game which is good enough for 4th in the nation. They actually improve on that when it comes to scoring offense as the Noles average 53.6 points per game which is 3rd in the nation. Florida State is converting over half of their third down attempts so far this season and is 12th in that category. Florida State has scored on 28 out of 29 of its red zone attempts including 23 touchdowns. That is good enough for 4th in the country. Florida State leads the nation in turnovers lost with only three (one fumble, two interceptions).

Clemson is much improved on defense from a year ago. Especially when it comes to forcing turnovers. They are 12th in the nation in turnovers gained (five fumbles, ten interceptions). Clemson is 10th in scoring defense only giving up 16 points per game. They have given up 14 touchdowns on the season and allowed zero field goals. Clemson also leads the nation in 3rd down completion percentage at 23%. Clemson is 4th in the nation in red zone defense allowing only six scores in ten attempts.

EDGE: Florida State

Florida State will have to deal with a raucous crowd and a much improved Clemson defense, but I believe they are up to the task and more. The Clemson secondary doesn't have the athletes to deal with the Florida State wide receivers. They do not tackle very well and if the Florida State running backs get into space we could see a repeat of the "Big Boy football" run from last year. Winston should be able to pick this defense apart. The only question mark is how the offensive line will hold up against this Clemson defensive line. Florida State has one of the best pass blocking running backs in the country in Devonta Freeman. Keeping him in to give Winston more time will be a key here.

Clemson Offense

Clemson quarterback + receivers

Tahj Boyd and Sammy Watkins lead one of the most potent offenses in the country. They come in averaging over 340 passing yards per game which is ranked 10th overall. Boyd is averaging 9.64 passing yards per attempt and has 15 touchdowns to only two interceptions. Watkins leads the tigers with 582 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. Adam Humphries, Martavis Bryant, and Stanton Seckinger all average over 12 yards per reception. 18 different players have caught a pass this season for the Tigers.

Terrance Brooks and Lamarcus Joyner lead a Seminoles secondary that hasn't really been tested yet outside of Pittsburgh. Freshman Jalen Ramsey has stepped in admirably for the injured Tyler Hunter at safety. Florida State only gives up 149 passing yards per game. Good enough for 2nd in the nation. Florida State has intercepted six passes on the season. Expect the Noles to play a lot of 3-3-5 and 4-2-5 to combat the Clemson wide receivers. Florida State has only given up six passing touchdowns this season.

EDGE: Clemson

Tahj Boyd is a fantastic quarterback. Sammy Watkins is a fantastic wide receiver. They will make plays that is not in question. The question is can the Florida State secondary limit the amount of big plays? Can they open field tackle preventing the Clemson short passes from becoming long pass plays? Those are the questions that will need to be answered. Florida State should be able to do both, but shutting them down is a fairly impossible task.

Clemson running backs vs. Florida State linebackers

Roderick McDowell has been very impressive so far this season. He is averaging 4.9 yards per carry on 78 carries. McDowell has zero touchdowns on the year as Clemson likes to run Tahj Boyd, Zac Brooks, and C.J. Davidson in the red zone. McDowell has great vision, excellent burst and does a fantastic job of fighting off arm tackles. Clemson averages 172 yards per game on the ground which is 65th in the country. Tahj Boyd actually leads the team in rushing touchdowns with five.

Florida State only allows 127 yards rushing per game which is 27th in the country. Telvin Smith leads the Noles in tackles with 32. The Seminoles only allow 3.3 yards per carry and have only allowed one rushing touchdown so far this season. Florida State is 40th in the country averaging 6.6 tackles for loss per game. Look for the Seminole linebackers to have a big game vs. Clemson EDGE: Push

Florida State will have to contain Tahj Boyd if they want to win this game. The Seminoles have the athletes to spy him and keep him in check. The Seminoles looked much improved vs. Maryland (a spread team) two weeks ago with the linebackers playing in their gaps and played disciplined. McDowell has great vision and will do a good job of finding the right holes to run through. Clemson also likes to run quarterback power with Tahj Boyd. Four out of every five times they run that play it is to the left and nets around five yards so the Florida State defense will have to be ready for that.

Clemson offensive line vs. Florida State defensive line

Clemson is 81st in the country in sacks allowed with 13 and is 91st in tackles for loss allowed with 40. The Clemson offensive line was expected to be one of their strong points this season but that hasn't been the case. They are extremely susceptible to the delayed blitz. The right side of their line has had trouble so far this season. Tyler Shatley and Timothy Gifford have had trouble dealing with any blitz and are often beat one on one. Gifford was benched in the North Carolina State game for freshman Shaq Anthony. Anthony wasn't that much better and also gives up 35 pounds to Gifford. Florida State is 53rd in the nation in sacks with 10 and 40th in tackles for loss with 33. The Florida State defensive line got a huge boost against Maryland with the return of Mario Edwards Jr. Timmy Jernigan is widely considered one of the best defensive tackles in the nation. The opposite defensive end position of Edwards Jr. is more up in the air. Chris Casher, Demonte McAllister, Eddie Goldman, and Dan Hicks are all playing very well right now. McAllister is coming back from suspension for the Maryland game. EDGE: Florida State

This matchup might be the most important one in the game. If Clemson can stop the Florida State defensive line the Clemson offense will run up and down the field. I don't believe that will happen and I think that the Florida State defensive line will dominate a Clemson unit that has underperformed all year. Tahj Boyd has trouble when rolling to his left which is favorable to Florida State as the right side of the Clemson line has had trouble containing defenses.

Clemson offense vs. Florida State defense overall

Tahj Boyd and Sammy Watkins are rolling right now. The dominated a Georgia team in the first game of the season and have put up over 35 points in every game this season but last week at Boston College. That could be attributed to looking ahead to this week's top five match up. Clemson is 13th in the country in total offense averaging 515 yards per game. They drop a little to 17th when it comes to scoring offense with just under 41 points per game. Clemson is 49th in the nation in third down percentage converting only 41% of their chances. Clemson has scored on 22 of their 26 red zone attempts including 19 touchdowns. Clemson is 11th in the country in turnovers lost with six (4 fumbles, 2 interceptions). Florida State's new defense was supposed to bring an increase in turnovers but that has not been the case so far. Florida State has forced seven turnovers so far this season which is 104th in the nation. The Florida State defense is one of the top defenses in the country in yardage allowed. They only give up 276 yards per game which is 7th in the nation. Only one team in the county has given up less touchdowns that Florida State, which has only given up seven. Florida State is 16th in the country in 3rd down defense only allowing a first down 29% of the time. Florida State has given up nine scores in 12 red zone attempts.

EDGE: Clemson (barely)

The Clemson offense is very explosive but they are not invincible. Tahj Boyd is incredibly accurate in the short and intermediate passing game but he does have some trouble throwing deep. Most of his deep throw touchdowns have been to wide open receivers who have slowed down to the ball. When his receivers are well covered he has trouble. Florida State will have to do a great job of tackling especially on Boyd who is very hard to bring down. I think Clemson will put some points on the board but that the Florida State defense will do a very good job of limiting the big plays.

Special Teams

Florida State is a mixed bag on special teams. On the right hand you have Roberto Aguayo who is perfect on the year with 35/35 extra points and 7/7 field goals. On the left you have Cason Beatty who is only averaging 36 yards per punt. Most Seminole fans hold their breath every time Beatty touches the football. Florida State has also had trouble in kickoff coverage giving up big returns in the Boston College and Maryland games.

Clemson had been fairly good in the special teams department until last week at Boston College. They missed a field goal and muffed the snap of another. Clemson's kicker Chandler Catanzaro is 29/9 on extra points and 5/6 on field goals. Clemson's freshman punter Bradley Pinion is averaging 39 yards per punt. Clemson is 95th in the nation in kickoff returns averaging just 19.5 yards per return. EDGE: Clemson

Cason Beatty pushes this over the edge for Clemson. To go along with his short average Beatty also takes a long time to get the ball off once he touches it. Do not be surprised to see Clemson coming after him every time Florida State punts.

Final Prediction

Florida State's offense is a well-oiled machine and will continue to roll along this game. It all depends on whether you believe Jameis Winston can handle the pressure of the road game. I believe he can and he will. Winston lives for these types of situations. On the other side, Clemson's offense will put up points. The key will be for Florida State's defense to control the big plays and tackle in space. I think they can do both. The Noles will walk out of Death Valley with a 38-27 win.

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