Making the pick highlights the Week 4 matchup between #10 Clemson and #4 Florida State.
Both teams enter this weeks matchup with 3-0 records and plenty of momentum. Clemson is fresh off a 41-7 blowout win over FCS Furman, while Florida State recorded their 2nd consecutive shutout against ACC foe Wake Forest 52-0. In last year’s game Florida State began the game with a 3-0 lead. It was the last lead the Seminoles would see the rest of the day. Clemson took a 21-10 lead into halftime on the strength of 3 Tahj Boyd TDs. Clemson then staved off a late Florida State rally to come away with a 35-30 win. It is important to note that Freshmen Clint Trickett started in place of E.J. Manuel in last year’s game. However, Trickett’s performance certainly did not play into the Seminoles demise as he played exceptionally well completing 24-38 passes for 336 yards and 3 TDs. What did play a big role in the Seminoles losing last year was how undisciplined a performance the young Seminoles team exhibited. Florida State committed 11 penalties for 124 yards and got dominated in time of possession by an eleven minute advantage in favor of Clemson.
Florida State returns 17 starters to this year’s team including 9 of 11 starters on defense. An important note to this is that Florida State has lost All-American DE Brandon Jenkins to injury a couple weeks ago. Jenkins led FSU in sacks the last 2 seasons. The immense depth and talent pool on FSU’s Defensive Line will help the seminoles cope with this loss.(FSU has our #2 rated DL unit) The solid play of DE Bjoern Werner has definitely helped calm nerves by already recording 6.5 sacks in 3 games. FSU spends a great majority of time in opponents backfields having recorded 26 tackles for loss and 11 sacks thru 3 games. FSU has the #1 ranked scoring defense and total defense thru the 1st 3 weeks. Many will say their schedule which has consisted of 2 FCS teams and Wake Forest is the reason for this inflated statistical output. The argument holds relevance but the dominance these statistics show certainly carry weight.
Offensively FSU is seemingly as balanced as an offense can get. FSU averages 279 yards rushing per game and 264 yards passing per game. QB E.J. Manuel is back and healthy, and so far Manuel has completed 70% of his passes and does present a substantial running threat to opposing defenses. FSU returns 3 of 5 Offensive Lineman from last year’s team that allowed 41 sacks. Both the WR and RB corps produce on a commitee basis with no great superstar notoriety in any unit. However, RB Chris Thompson may have had a coming out party last week by rushing for 197 yards on just 9 carries against Wake Forest.
Clemson returns 14 starters from last year with 7 coming back on each side of the ball. Defensively Clemson’s glaring weaknesses are their ability against the rush and their lack of pass-rushing presence. The tigers allowed 177 yards per game on the ground last year which ranked #83 in the country.They are already surrendering 179 yards per game this year. Clemson only recorded 24 sacks last year and only has 3 so far this season. MLB Stephone Anthony has been solid accumulating 27 tackles thru 3 games, and preseason All-Conference DE Malliciah Goodman must play disruptive football for the Tigers defense to have success.
The other side of the football is the clear strength for Clemson. QB Tahj Boyd has picked up where he left off a year ago completing 73% of his passes and averaging 249 yards per game. RB Andre Ellington has proven himself has one of the top backs in the country by nearly beating Auburn by himself while finishing the day with 228 yards rushing. All-American WR Sammy Watkins is back after a 2-game suspension, but it has been WR DeAndre Hopkins who has grown into quite the weapon thru the 1st 3 weeks. Hopkins has 26 receptions for 319 yards and 4 TDs. The question mark is on the Offensive Line where FSU’s biggest strength meets Clemson’s biggest weakness. They return only 2 starters from a year ago.
The pick to win Saturday’s prime time matchup is Florida State. When comparing legitimate victories between these two teams we propose this question. Could it be that people have overrated Clemson’s win over 1-2 Auburn and underrated FSU’s win against 1-2 Wake Forest? Absolutely, especially if we are looking at it that way. Auburn lost to the Tigers then got smacked around by Mississippi State before needing OT to dispose of upstart UL-Monroe. Wake Forest on the other hand had beaten FSU 4 out of the last 6 times and came into last weeks game fresh off a solid win against UNC before getting shutout by the Seminoles. While this is not our reasoning for the selection of the Seminoles it certainly plays a role. Additionally the home team is 9-1 in games between these two squads and FSU is home this weekend. We expect FSU to pressure Tahj Boyd defensively with their plethora of pass rushers and put pressure on Clemson’s horrid rush defense with the combination of RBs James Wilder and Chris Thompson. Clemson certainly has playmakers offensively, and those weapons could keep the game close. However, FSU is playing great balanced football right now and we don’t see that coming to a halt against Clemson.
We leave you with Dabo Swinney’s enthusiasm…