Alex Turko (aturko_23)
It’s not the national title, nor the ACC championship game, but this might be the biggest match-up of the entire college football regular season. The ACC’s top two teams will be showcased in front of the entire country at 8 o’clock, Saturday night in Clemson, South Carolina. This will be the second time this season that College Gameday will be in Clemson to watch the Tigers take on a top-10 team. Earlier this season, they defeated the Georgia Bulldogs under the bright lights in Death Valley.
With an incredible number of storylines leading up to this colossal top 5 match-up, it’s no surprise that the media is establishing this game into must see TV. The USA Today called this the “biggest game in ACC history,” and ESPN has mentioned that the quarterback that performs the best this Saturday may have the inside track to winning the Heisman Trophy. The Tigers will be playing for revenge, hoping to erase the pain from the 49 to 37 loss last year in Doak Campbell stadium in another College Gameday featured game.
A win will all but guarantee the ACC Atlantic title and a surge into the national championship conversation. The Seminoles have not beaten the Tigers in Death Valley since 2001. The environment should be out of this world, especially with orangeandwhite.com reporting that the fans in orange will be attempting to break the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar. If you are wondering why the Noles haven’t brought home a “W” from Tiger-town since 2001, the crowd noise is a huge reason for Clemson’s success. It gets so loud in there that hand signals become necessary to communicate. The miscommunications caused by the crowd noise causes turnovers and penalties. The discipline of the Seminoles will be tested early and often Saturday night.
To prepare for the insane noise levels, Jimbo Fisher has been blaring loud crowd noises during practice to try and prepare his team for the hostile environment they are about to face. It will be interesting to see how the young Jameis Winston handles the magnitude of this game to go along with the distracting environment. This game could go a long way to adding to the folklore of the young superstar. Both teams will be tested as they play under the watchful eye of the entire nation.
Aside from the noise a key for the Seminoles success will be how they choose to match-up with the Clemson offense. The elephant in the room is how the Noles plan to contain Sammy Watkins. Clemson’s offensive coordinator, Chad Morris, is not blind to fact that Watkins may be the best playmaker in the country, and he knows the defense is always keyed into him and where he is at all times. Morris moves his star receiver around to constantly keep the defenses’ attention on Watkins, often opening up holes in the defense for other players as the defense over-commits. Pre-snap they love to bring him in motion, creating the immediate threat of the handoff or option play. Unfortunately Watkins is so dangerous in space that defending this jet sweep or option play freezes the defense for that split second giving other Clemson players an extra step on the defender. I can’t wait to see how FSU’s young defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt, decides to cover Watkins. The good news for Pruitt is that he has a bountiful amount of speed to match with Watkins, but whom he chooses to cover him will be interesting.
The key for Florida State when it comes to stopping the high-octane Tiger offense will be how much pressure the Seminoles can get on Tajh Boyd. Pruitt’s defense is actually better suited to defend a spread option attack than a “run it down your throat” type of offense like Boston College’s. Eye discipline will be key with all of the pre-snap reads that the defense will have to be aware of. What I mean by eye discipline is not to let the offense fool you with their movements and misdirection keeping the defender from getting sucked into a play. Trusting the scheme and assignment will keep the defender with the man and prevent busted coverages. Getting pressure on Boyd and forcing him to make tough plays could be the difference in the game with the Noles holding the advantage on every one of their match-ups that isn’t Sammy Watkins.
Just like getting pressure is a huge key to the Seminoles success, it will also be vital for the Clemson defense. The Tigers boast the nations’ sack leader, Vic Beasley, who will be facing off with FSU’s left tackle Cam Erving. Erving will have his hands full with this pass-rushing specialist, but keeping a clean pocket for a redshirt freshman quarterback in this hostile environment might be the most important storyline of the game.
We will know what both teams are made of when the clock hits zero on Saturday. This game will test the Noles physically and mentally more so than any other game on the schedule. Will they exit Clemson as a national title contender, or a pretender?
Return to: 1010XL Florida Gators Blog