So, first things first. This is my first fanpost here on Tomahawk Nation. I have been an avid reader (almost every day) for the past couple of years or so. So, thanks for reading!
My first year being an FSU fan was the 1999 National Championship year. Great first year of fandom! Unfortunately, we haven't won it since. After the championship season, I still had high hopes for our Noles. However, after the 7-6 seasons (that won't be mentioned again after this), I began to really look at things from a realistic perspective. Some in the sports media had FSU pegged as a dark horse for the championship last year, but I knew better. I expected a slip up game or two...but nothing more. So, I was satisfied with the season overall last year. (Disclaimer: No. I am not saying that I was OK with the loss to NC State. As my upper management says almost daily, "That is unacceptable." But I digress.)
So, what is my realistic expectation? Well, I don't know yet.
Looking at our schedule, we can assume the possibility of losing 2 games is pretty good (Clemson and UF). Now, if Jameis Winston is named the starter and he turns into another Johnny Manziel-type (without the "Manziel disease"), then we can re-examine this post at that time. But, for the sake of argument, let's assume he's not quite there.
The question mark game for me is at Clemson. FSU's defense will at least be as good as, if not better than, last year's team. The talent is there, and according to the wonderful reports from our Tomahawk Nation team, they seem to be enjoying the new schemes. So, let's assume our defense will be just as good as last year's defense. Clemson's offense will be just as good as, if not better than, Clemson's offense last year. We all know the question marks for FSU's offense, so that leaves Clemson's defense as the only other question mark.
Brent Venables is now in his second year as the Defensive Coordinator for Clemson. So, how much better will this defense be than last year's? Well, let's look at how he did in his second year as DC of Oklahoma, his last job.
2004 was Venables's first year at Oklahoma. And his team went to the National Championship game. And then promptly gave up 55 points to Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and the other guys at USC. His defense averaged allowing 307 yards per game (minus cupcake teams and postseason) and roughly 5.3 yards per play and 13.8 points per game. In his second year as DC of Oklahoma, the team went 8-4 and allowed 305 yards per game (minus postseason...didn't have any cupcakes) and roughly 4.5 yards per play and a whopping 23.9 points per game.
Last year, Clemson went 11-2. The defense allowed 357 yards per game (not counting Furman, for its cupcake status and Maryland since they were using an economics professor, or something like that, for its QB) and roughly 4.8 yards per play and a colossal 28.2 points per game. Let it be noted that FSU accounted for 667 yards on 75 plays.
So what does all of this mean for Clemson's defense? Well, we don't know yet.
There are three things that could impact these numbers and render them completely useless to the whole point:
A) Jason White was the QB for Oklahoma in 2004 (and garnered enough Heisman votes for a third-place finish that year). Rhett Bomar was the QB in 2005. I don't know how many of the points attributed to the 2005 OU defense were interceptions returned for TDs or fumbles returned for TDs, etc.
2) The quality of players on defense from 2004-2005 for Oklahoma, and the same for Clemson from last year to this year.
D) Really, there is no third thing. I just know we're supposed to follow the "A2D" format.
We know that Tajh Boyd is no Rhett Bomar, that's for sure. There shouldn't be more turnovers this year from the QB position than last year. And Clemson had a pretty good recruiting class in 2011. So, if Venables has a similar second year in Clemson as he had at Oklahoma, then it's safe to say that Clemson's 2013 defense will be fractionally better than 2012's defense. Either way, it looks like Clemson's defense will still be allowing some points on the board, and I'm sure we'll all get a good look at that when they open the season against UGA.
FSU certainly will have a shot to win this game in Death Valley. Would I put my money on the game yet? No. Would I put my money on the game after Clemson plays UGA? Probably. It should be a good indicator as to how Clemson's defense is this year. And I'm sure that FSU's coaching staff will be watching game film from this game when they are preparing for our mid-season matchup. And if Famous Jameis comes out and plays the way everyone is expecting him to perform, then we could definitely make this year's matchup a constant replay on ESPNU throughout the season.