November 6, 2015

Game Prediction - Clemson vs. FSU

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says every game is the biggest game of the season. Well, this time he’s right.

Clemson and Florida State. It’s for an ACC Atlantic Title. It’s for a berth in the ACC Championship game. It’s for the right to remain No. 1.

Florida State broke a five-game losing streak in Death Valley the last time they traveled to Clemson with a 51-14 win and have won three straight in the series. Can the Tigers take control of the ACC from the Seminoles?


Florida St.’s offense is built around running back Dalvin Cook, one of the nation’s top backs and a one-time Clemson commit. The sophomore back sat out last week nursing ankle and hamstring injuries but is expected to be full-go Saturday. Cook has carried the ball 127 times for 1,037 yards – an 8.2 yards per carry clip – and 11 touchdowns and is averaging 148.1 yards per game. At quarterback, it’s not clear as to whether the Noles will go with graduate transfer Everett Golson, who started the season’s first seven games but missed last week with a concussion, or Sean Maguire who famously beat Clemson last year in Tallahassee. Golson has completed 139-of-207 passes for 1,659 yards and 11 scores against only one interception. However, Maguire was impressive last week in the win over Syracuse completing 23-of-35 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns. At receiver, the Seminoles top three targets are Kermit Whitfield (37-461-2), Travis Rudolph (35-501-6) and Jesus Wilson (33-407-2).

The good news for Clemson is that Florida St’s strength is running the ball, and defensively the Tigers are very good at stopping the run. The Tigers are 14th nationally in rushing defense, giving up 109 yards per game and just six rushing touchdowns. Shaq Lawson, Carlos Watkins, Scott Pagano, D.J. Reader, Christian Wilkins and Kevin Dodd will have to get a good push at the line of scrimmage to keep FSU’s offensive line from creating any sort of hole for Cook. Last week, N.C. State found success when they matched up their running backs with linebackers on screen passes and wheel routes, so we could see the Noles try the same with the speedy and shifty Cook. Florida St.’s receivers don’t have gaudy numbers, but all it took in 2014 was one long pass to force overtime and seal Clemson’s fate. Mackensie Alexander and Cordrea Tankersley could be left a lot in man coverage with Jayron Kearse helping the run game.

CLEMSON OFFENSE VS. FLORIDA ST. DEFENSE: Clemson’s offense has seemed to find its stride the last weeks putting up 58 and 56 points. Will the Noles be able to stop Deshaun Watson and the Tigers’ balanced offense? Over the last two weeks, Watson is a combined 38 of 49 for 526 yards and six touchdowns, with each of those scoring tosses going to a different receiver. Watson also has tacked on 22 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Running back Wayne Gallman continues to be a big part of the offense with 159 carries for 874 yards – an average of 5.5 yards per carry – and seven touchdowns. Regarding touchdowns, Jordan Leggett has emerged as Watson’s top target in the red zone with six scores. However, Watson isn’t afraid to spread the ball around as eight different players have recorded a receiving touchdown. Clemson’s offensive line will have one of it’s toughest tests as the Noles always have quick, powerful defensive linemen.

Josh Sweat, Jacob Pugh, and DeMarcus Walker make up the defensive end corps and have a combined 13.5 tackles for loss while Nile Lawrence-Stample and Derrick Nnadi hold down the interior of the line and have a combined four sacks. Jalen Ramsey anchors the defensive backfield and is one of the best defensive backs in the country, so Watson will have to be cognizant of his whereabouts at all times. Florida State is giving up 139 yards per game on the ground – 37th in the nation – and 184 yards through the air – 23rd in the nation.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Special teams could be a big part of Saturday’s game, and that won’t bode well for Clemson. The Tigers have given up two returns for touchdowns, along with several other long returns, and will be facing two dangerous return men in Jesus Wilson and Kermit Whitfield. Clemson has looked decent on kickoff returns, but the Noles rank seventh nationally in kickoff return defense. Roberto Aguayo has 25 touchbacks in 52 attempts while Ammon Lakip has 17 touchbacks in 38 kickoffs. FSU has the advantage at punter with Cason Beatty averaging 43.9 yards per punt with a long of 64 yards. Clemson’s Andy Teasdall is averaging just 39.5 yards. Greg Huegel has made 12-of-14 field goal attempts but missed two extra points last week. Aguayo is just 13-of-17 on field goals and had one blocked and returned for a touchdown on the final play against Georgia Tech two weeks ago.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN: There is a lot on the line for both teams - a potential playoff berth and an ACC Atlantic title for Clemson and another chance for an ACC championship for Florida State. However, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of pressure on Clemson’s football team, and maybe that’s because of Swinney’s “every game is the biggest game” mentality. Dalvin Cook will get his yards and will score a couple of times for the Seminoles because he’s just that good, but I don’t expect the Noles to get a lot going in the passing game because of Clemson’s defensive line. Clemson on the other hand will continue to roll on offense with Deshaun Watson at the helm and will make enough plays to comfortably win the game.


Post written by Clemson Girl Sports Bloggess Nikki Hood

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