Preview: Clemson Tigers at Florida State Seminoles

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Clemson Offense v. Florida State Defense

As one commenter put it this week, this is the cripple fight of the game compared to the battle of the heavweights that is Clemson's defense against Florida State's offense.  Clemson's offense isn't good, but neither is Florida State's defense.  Clemson's offense is rated 44th and Florida State's defense is 48th.  That is extremely close.  Fans of both teams probably feel that they are worse but much of the results are clouded by the level of competition, either positive or negative.  

As with any offense, Clemson starts up front.  This is a big, experienced group and is the best Clemson offensive line in years.  That says something considering the Tigers have ran all over Florida State in previous years with much lesser backs.  Here's the 5:  LT 61 CHRIS HAIRSTON 6-7 325 *Gr.LG 73 DAVID SMITH 6-5 315 *Jr.C 55 DALTON FREEMAN 6-5 285 *So.RG 74 ANTOINE McCLAIN 6-5 330 Jr.RT 72 LANDON WALKER 6-6 310 *Jr.

Having said that, this is not a tremendous offensive line.  It's just decent.  Clemson will both man and zone block. I would expect more man blocking this weekend.  

Under center is QB 11 KYLE PARKER 6-1 200 *So.  He has a huge arm but often uses it recklessly.  Parker is also not the listed 6'1" (my opinion) and like most short QBs he doesn't like pressure in his face.  Parker can fit the ball into small spaces which makes him dangerous against zone defenses, but he can be erratic.  I hate to say that FSU doesn't completely control its performance against him, but the fact is whether he will be on or off is key in this game.    Clemson is also committed to playing 10 Tajh Boyd 6-1 230 *Fr., who is talented but quite raw.  I am unsure how much they will play him.  

Clemson's best offensive weapon is  TE 83 DWAYNE ALLEN 6-4 255 *So.  He is a stud who Clemson beat out the Tigers for two years ago in recruiting.  Allen is a difficult cover for anyone and he is not a terrible run blocker either.  If he slips a tackle he can run like a deer.  

In the backfield is RB 8 JAMIE HARPER 6-0 235 Jr. and 25 Roderick McDowell 5-9 185 *Fr.  Harper is talented but rarely runs hard.  You can bet he will run hard against FSU as he is from Florida.  He's also a tremendous receiver. FB 30 CHAD DIEHL 6-2 265 *Jr. is one of the best fullbacks in the country and absolutely crushed Nigel Bradham last year.  

At the receiver position is  6 DeANDRE HOPKINS 6-1 195 Fr.,  18 JARON BROWN 6-2 200 *So., and 7 BRYCE McNEAL 6-1 180 *Fr.  These guys are young and talented but have had similar struggles as FSU with the lack of consistency, route running, and drops.  Hopkins, however, is very talented and pretty productive.

FSU will need to fare well up front against Clemson's offensive line.  That will fall on the shoulders of LDE 98 MARKUS WHITE 6-4 265 Sr., 95 Bjoern Werner 6-4 273 Fr., NG 99 JACOBBI McDANIEL 6-0 298 So., 92 Anthony McCloud 6-2 302 So., DT 93 EVERETT DAWKINS 6-2 285 So., 97 Demonte McAllister 6-2 280 Fr., RDE 49 BRANDON JENKINS 6-3 250 So., and 58 Dan Hicks 6-4 260 Fr.  I listed the entire two-deep because this young unit is worn down as we feared it might be late in the season.  The backups in this game will be very important against a very mature Clemson line.  

FSU can battle well against this offense if it can shut down the run.  That means  SLB 16 MISTER ALEXANDER 6-3 237 Sr., MLB 29 KENDALL SMITH 6-0 242 Sr., and WLB 13 NIGEL BRADHAM 6-2 240 Jr. have to be gap sound.  Not allowing Harper to gain confidence and intensity is key.  Bounce him to the outside and make him run laterally. That's pretty standard with all big backs.  They are momentum runners and lack the quickness.  Make them start and stop and they are doomed.  

I would expect FSU to match up well against Clemson's skill guys, but I expect that against most teams.  The mental part is the key here.  To the field side that will fall on 5 GREG REID 5-8 185 So. and 1 Michael Harris 5-11 183 Jr..  To the boundary will be superstar 27 XAVIER RHODES 6-1 210 Fr. and rising star 20 Lamarcus Joyner 5-8 183 Fr.  I rarely worry about the corners and really don't much here.  I do worry about the safeties, however, because they played quite poorly last week.  They need to get their noses out of the backfield and hope that the front seven can handle the run for the most part.  Can SS 4 TERRANCE PARKS 6-2 218 Jr. and FS 10 NICK MOODY 6-2 228 So. do it?  We'll see.

I see Clemson running 65 plays for 315 yards (4.8 per play). 

Now we get to the good stuff.  Clemson's defense and Florida State's offense are both very good.  Clemson's defense is rated #16 and Florida State's offense 20th.  These are both very well-coached, efficient, talented units.  I will not be heading to the concession stand when these two are on the field.  

Again, it all starts up front.  Clemson has one of the best defensive lines in the entire country and Florida State has one of the best offensive lines in the country (now mostly healthy).  If you enjoy line play, this will be fun.

It starts with DE 93 Da'QUAN BOWERS 6-4 275 Jr.  He's a top-10 pick as an early-entrant.  On the other side is DE 40 ANDRE BRANCH 6-5 260 *Jr., a quality player with a good motor.  97 Malliciah Goodman 6-4 265 So. is a very talented backup as well.  NG 98 BRANDON THOMPSON 6-2 310 Jr., 89 Miguel Chavis 6-5 285 Sr., DT 99 JARVIS JENKINS 6-4 315 Sr., and 94 Rennie Moore 6-4 270 *Jr. are the foursome inside.  This is a great defensive line.  At least four of these guys will be playing NFL ball, perhaps more.  And the key here is how veteran they are.  Two monsters inside who are full-grown men, plus Bowers who is unblockable at the college level. 

That great defensive line will help to mask the very average linebacking corps of SLB 34 QUANDON CHRISTIAN 6-3 215 *Fr., MLB 42 CORICO HAWKINS 5-11 230 So., and WLB 20 BRANDON MAYE 6-2 235 *Jr.  If Florida State can get to the second level and get its hands on these backers, the 'Noles can run all day.  But that's obviously quite hard considering how good this defensive line is.  

Will the group of LT 67 ANDREW DATKO 6-6 307 Jr., LG 62 RODNEY HUDSON 6-2 288 Sr., C 60 RYAN McMAHON 6-1 285 Sr., RG 73 RHONNE SANDERSON 6-2 280 So (fourth-string)., and RT 77 ZEBRIE SANDERS 6-6 307 Jr. be up to the challenge?  It will need to be.  Keep in mind that a "win" by this group isn't total domination, but rather a stalemate and some movement.  The key battle will be Sanders v. Bowers.  I would expect a lot of help from TE 88 BEAU RELIFORD 6-6 254 Jr. and 85 Ja'Baris Little 6-3 237 Jr.    

Florida State features a trio of quality tailbacks in  TB 38 JERMAINE THOMAS 5-11 192 Jr., 23 CHRIS THOMPSON 5-8 185 So., and 33 TY JONES 5-10 210 Jr.  I would expect Jones to be back this week as he didn't totally flake out in practice.  FB 24 LONNIE PRYOR 6-0 213 So. is a talented kid who has burned Clemson before and could be a problem for Clemson's linebackers.  Whichever tailback is in will need to put his foot in the ground and go this week (cough... Jermaine... cough).  The holes will not be big so urgency is key.

Next is the matchup of the receivers and DBs.  FSU features four receivers in rotation:  WR-Z 8 TAIWAN EASTERLING 5-11 200 Jr., 84 Rodney Smith 6-6 222 So. and WR-X 83 BERT REED 5-10 175 Jr.  82 Willie Haulstead 6-3 213 So.  Haulstead is the best of the bunch but this group has been disappointing to date and really needs to get it together. 

Clemson has a trio of quality corners in CB 12 MARCUS GILCHRIST 5-11 190 Sr.CB 29 XAVIER BREWER 5-11 190 *So. or 36 BYRON MAXWELL 6-1 205 *Gr.   and two excellent, NFL safeties as well in SS 2 DeANDRE McDANIEL 6-1 215 Sr. and FS 31 RASHARD HALL 6-2 200 *So.

Can FSU's receivers stand the physical battle against Clemson's DBs?  We shall see.  

Finally is the question at Quarterback.  The swelling is down in the arm of  7 CHRISTIAN PONDER 6-3 222 Sr.  He took reps yesterday and more today, and if he can go he will play as he is an excellent player.  If he cannot, FSU will turn to the talented but somewhat unproven 3 E.J. Manuel 6-4 234 So., who hasn't been healthy for part of the season.  Both have similar talents yet differences as well.  Manuel is better at designed runs and not as good of a scrambler.  Ponder is considerably more accurate while Manuel has the bigger arm.  

Clemson will run both man and zone, and will zone blitz and man blitz.  This year, however, they like to sit back a bit more and let the tremendous DLine do its work.  It is a complex defensive scheme and I worry about FSU having to use a backup QB who wasn't particularly good at diagnosing last season.  

I expect FSU to run 70 plays for 368 yards (5.25 per play) in a battle of an excellent defense and an excellent offense.  

Florida State has better special teams here as Clemson has three kickers it has been trying, no proven return man, and makes really dumb mental errors on special teams.  

Chance of winning:  60%  Score Prediction:  23-20 Seminoles

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