We're counting down to kickoff between the no. 4 Florida State Seminoles and the no. 10 Clemson Tigers. College Gameday has wound down, fans are headed to tailgates and the fervor continues to build before this game gets underway.
This may be the Seminoles' toughest game of the year, the Tigers boast a potent offense and will test the FSU defense for the first time all season. Not surprisingly most of the attention will be on that battle all evening. Andre Ellington, Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and Tajh Boyd can give any team problems, Florida State is no different if they are off their game tonight.
Let's look at three things to watch for against Clemson.
Florida State Secondary vs. Clemson Wideouts
This is a no-brainer, but it's still the biggest matchup and one which will likely decide the outcome of the game. Sammy Watkins is one of the best players in college football and DeAndre Hopkins is a great compliment. Having both on the field means the Seminoles can't focus on just one and gives Clemson loads of options. It will be key that the Seminoles cover the Clemson receiving corps at least long enough for their front to pressure Tajh Boyd. If Watkins and Hopkins have a field day the Seminoles will have to rely on their offense to win this one and that's not ideal. Don't expect either receiver to be quiet, they'll make plays, but it's making sure to avoid the big ones that will be key, that means making tackles and not missing assignments. It's a tall order but one that this team is capable of.
Florida State's Front vs. Itself
The toughest thing for the Seminoles' athletic front seven will be avoiding over-aggressiveness. This Clemson offense relies on misdirection and trickery to try and create mismatches and mistakes. Athleticism is not going to be the issue for Florida State, they can stop this offense, it will be discipline. If guys over-pursue, if the ends don't get contain or if anyone decides to go free-lancing big plays are going to happen. The Seminoles cannot afford to give up any big plays. If Clemson scores, Florida State needs to make sure they earn it. If this defense gets sloppy or lets up on even one play, it could change the entire balance of the game. With a very mobile quarterback and the kind of weapons Clemson has at tailback and receiver, discipline will be huge.
Florida State Run Game vs. Clemson Run Defense
A lot of talk this week has centered around the Florida State passing attack, and while it's not where fans and coaches would like it to be, that's not the most important part of what Florida State needs to do tonight. This isn't a game that the Seminoles want to turn into a shootout. If they can grind out first downs, hold on to the ball and force their will on the ground they will be in great shape though. Running the ball will be key because the more you can keep the Clemson offense, and FSU defense, off the field the better. Clemson can't score when it's not on the field, it's defense will get worn down over the course of the game and the Seminoles have a stable of backs who can really get after a team once fatigue sets in. If Florida State needs their passing attack to win this game they're already in trouble. The more important aspect will be the run game. If they control the ball they control the clock and that likely means they win this game.
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