Clemson Football Check-Up: 3-0 Headed Into ACC Game of Year vs FSU

Before the season started, a guest blogger and I wrote Clemson football season previews. With the first quarter of the year now complete, it is time to review, and then examine what lies ahead.

Clemson began their journey to a 3-0 start with a telling win in Atlanta, versus Auburn. Against the SEC West foe, we learned that the young offensive line is pretty darn talented, and with experience, they can be very solid. Behind that inexperienced O-line, star running back, Andre Ellington, ran for 228 of Clemson’s 320 rushing yards. On a less positive note, a blemish in the Clemson defense was revealed as they struggled against the run. At the time, the victory seemed extremely impressive, and while I still believe it is a quality win and a potential “spring board,” Auburn isn’t quite as good as we expected. They followed up their loss in the Georgia Dome with an 18 point loss to Mississippi State in Starkville before returning home to squeak out a win against LA Monroe–in overtime!

After the exciting, nationally televised season opener, Ball State made the trek from Indiana down to Death Valley to face the Tigers. The Clemson offense was pumping on all cylinders as they ran 84 plays and posted 52 points. They scored 45 points in the first half–the most since posting 49 against Wake Forest in the national championship season, 1981. The highlight of the game came in the closing seconds of the first half when Clemson kicker, Spencer Benton, connected on a 61-yard field goal, posting an ACC record.

Still, Ball State was able to exploit the Clemson run defense. After allowing 4.9 YPC against Auburn, The Tigers surrendered 6.3 YPC. Ball State collected  252 net rushing yards en route to scoring 27 points. Ball State defeated a Big Ten opponent this week (9/15), going on the road and beating Indiana 41-39. (With the Big 10’s awful start, Dari Nowkhah of ESPN said the ACC is now the fourth best conference, leapfrogging the Big 10.)

Finally, after serving a two game suspension, Clemson welcomed back Sammy Watkins for a home tilt against nearby Furman. Watkins reminded the nation of his explosiveness with an early 58 yard run. Still, the coaching staff was dissatisfied (an attitude I love) with the defense–primarily due to the chunk plays Clemson continues to give up.

As a Clemson fan, you have to feel good about the way they’ve played to open the season. They surpassed my expectations by defeating Auburn, but to be fair, nobody could have predicted quite how mediocre Auburn would be. Jon Tomevi has been just about spot on in his early season predictions, predicting a 3-0 and being relatively close in his to the score predictions. 

The next quarter of the season features trips to Tallahassee and Chestnut Hill for the first two ACC games of the season before returning home for a battle with cross-divisional rival, Georgia Tech. This is the most difficult stretch of the season.

The game versus #4 FSU will feature two top 10 teams, and will have National Championship implications.The winner will have a great shot to earn a National Title Game berth where they’d promptly get waxed by Alabama. This Clemson/FSU game will be the biggest game the ACC has to offer this season, and the the best dating back to 2007 when Boston College visited Virginia Tech on a rainy Thursday night. Check out this link, courtesy of @ACCFootballNews to see the biggest ACC games over the past decade: 

Beating a top five team on the road is a lot to ask! Clemson’s offense appears to be up to the task, but they haven’t seen a defensive line quite like FSU so it’ll be a big test for the O-line. Despite FSU’s suffocating defense which allowed an average of…one point in its first three game, I’m more worried about Clemson’s defense being tested. “Twelve years ago, a 10th ranked Clemson traveled to a fourth ranked Florida State and the Seminoles came away with a 54-7 victory. Both teams have the same AP ranking entering this game.” I guarantee you Clemson will score more than seven points, but this will be an extremely tough one to win. The ACC game of the year in Tallahassee, which will be host to College Gameday Built by The Home Depot, will be nationally televised at 8:00 pm ABC.

Clemson won at Tallahassee in 2006, but that’s the only time since 1989. The highest ranked opponent I’ve watched Clemson beat in recent years was a sixth ranked Tennessee team that they faced in the 2004 Peach Bowl . I’d love to know the last time we defeated a top five ranked squad. If you can find it (I could not) please post in the comments.

With the O’Rourke-McFadden trophy on the line, Clemson will go on the road to play BC in Alumni Stadium–a house of horrors for the Clemson Tigers. The Eagles will be coming off a bye week, but let’s not dance around it, they’re bad. There is absolutely no excuse for Clemson to not pick up the road win in this matchup. Boston College surrendered 41 points to Miami at home (a Miami team that lost 13-52 at Kansas St.) and was beat soundly by Northwestern on the road. Clemson will be coming off the big FSU game, but they should still take care of business here.

After road games at FSU and BC, Clemson returns home to their nearest ACC opponent, Georgia Tech. GT, with their gimmicky triple-option offense, is capable of beating (and losing to anyone)! Kevin Steele’s defenses seemed to struggle against the triple option (most memorably in the 2009 ACC Championship), but Clemson’s defense is now led by Brent Venables so it’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles Georgia Tech.

Clemson’s 2012 schedule offers five “lose-able” matchups (AU, FSU, GT, VT, USC). They conquered the first one in the Georgia Dome. For the second quarter of the season, Both Jon Tomevi and I predicted a split with FSU and GT, losing to the ‘Noles on the road and beating the Yellow Jackets at home. Clemson has a great chance to go undefeated at home this season. They’ve won nine straight in Death Valley after going undefeated in 2011 and winning the first two home games of 2012.

The opening line of Clemson @ Florida State is FSU -14.5, a huge line considering Clemson is a top 10 team. Of course, I said the same about the Wake Forest @ Florida State line of FSU -28. What are you thoughts on what we’ve seen from the Tigers so far, and what do you expect in these first three conference games of the year? Is Monday’s line of 14.5 more than you expected?

Go Tigers!

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10 thoughts on “Clemson Football Check-Up: 3-0 Headed Into ACC Game of Year vs FSU

  1. If I were betting right now, with no lines, I would pick both FSU and GT. Of course I would relish a Clemson victory in either game, especially the GT game since I will be at that one. I’ll be watching the FSU game with a friend who went to FSU, so I’m prepared for the abuse. As always, I’m pulling for the Tigers to win them all. But as you mentioned, I’m not sure I would enjoy seeing us get crushed again in post-season play if we made it far enough to face Alabama. 🙂

  2. Alabama seems like they have learned to throw the ball and are more well-rounded than last year. I’d hate to play them. Both Clemson and FSU has much, much harder schedules than Oregon so if either is to go undefeated and most likely neither will, then they should jump Oregon and control their own destiny after the Alabama @ LSU game.

    We’re more talented than GT, who lost to a bad VT team. We’re very good in Death Valley and I feel ok about that game. I would pick us and even give away some points. FSU scares me a lot more, being on the road, and with their QB (who was out last year against us) and their D-line.

    • It just worries me because we easily handled VT twice last year, they beat GT, but we couldn’t. Will our defense to any better against their triple option this year. I certainly hope so. I think they’ll review last year’s game and remember how much that lost hur.

      • Also remember, we beat them at home in 2010. We just don’t win in Bobby Dodd, but we don’t have that much trouble with them at home. They’re certainly gimmicky and can steal a win from a better team, but if they can’t beat a mediocre VT team on the road, there’s no reason to think they can beat a better Clemson team on the road.

        Two worries:
        Has Venables seen a triple-option?
        Are they better than a team that lost to a mediocre VT team, given that was a Labor Day night game and now they’ve got their feet under them and we could be playing at noon.

    • Coach Swinney does no wrong! Haha, good win for Clemson today. 4-1, with back-to-back home games against GT and VT. Take care of business at home and we’re looking at a big finish to get into the BCS.

  3. HEy hey that’s pretty amazing article, well done, well i am in between of writing an ebook which will go for sale on amazon, i was wondering if i could use article with proper credits ofcourse, only if you allow

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