Florida State vs. Clemson Preview: Why the Seminoles Will Win

Part 2 of Our Florida State-Clemson Preview Explains Why the 'Noles Will Win on Saturday

Part 2 of Our Florida State-Clemson Preview Explains Why the ‘Noles Will Win on Saturday

Saturday’s matchup between Florida State and Clemson is obviously a big deal. And since this is an ACC blog, it only makes sense that we discuss the game as much as possible. We’ve done so all week, but now it’s almost game day, and that means in-depth previews. I gave my short thoughts yesterday, but we want to dive in further. To help, I enlisted the assistance of none other than fellow ACC afficionado Hokie Mark — whom you know from his contributions here as well as his own site, ACCFootballRx. In this battle of ACC powers, he’ll be arguing in favor of Clemson, while I’ll present the reasons why Florida State should emerge victorious. Enjoy!

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Yes, Clemson’s got the big game experience, the battle-tested quarterback and the home-field advantage. Those things are undeniable. But Florida State brings plenty with them as well. For one, “Famous” Jameis Winston seems to be just a small step behind Clemson’s Tajh Boyd as just a true freshman, and he even makes up for that gap in talent with what can only be described as “swagger.” Two Heisman moments already, a ridiculous stat line and almost irrational confidence in his abilities are all important characteristics in situations like this. With pressure looming down, the weight of Heisman potential, ACC titles and BCS National Championships within sight — sometimes irrational confidence is the only thing that can buy you a win.

Even if confidence isn’t enough though, he’s also got an impressive cast of characters to help him out as well. The running game is a multi-headed monster, with a variety of different backs who can also do some serious damage to an aggressively-blitzing Clemson front. Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder are a lethal combination, and resemble Syracuse’s attack enough (with a bit more talent too) to give the Tigers fits all day. The Orange ran for 323 yards vs. Clemson a couple weeks ago, and have supplied a blueprint for the ‘Noles to do the same. In the passing attack, Winston has the weapons to test Clemson’s secondary too, with Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene prepped to burn them on the outside. All of this made possible by Winston and what’s arguably the conference’s top offensive line.

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Florida State Seminoles

Can Florida State Repeat as ACC Champs, Or Will They Take a Small Step Back?

Can Florida State Repeat as ACC Champs, Or Will They Take a Small Step Back Under Jameis Winston?

Team: Florida State Seminoles

2012 W-L: 12-2 (7-1)

Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (31-10; fourth season)

Returning Starters: 10 (6 Offense, 4 Defense)

Is Florida State “back?” Depends on your definition. After a bit of a tailspin (by their standards) toward the end of the Bobby Bowden era, the Seminoles have since rebounded pretty well under Jimbo Fisher, winning a division title in two of the last three years and a conference championship last season (their first since 2005). SB Nation’s Bill Connelly has a lot more to say about the progression since Fisher’s hire, and rather than simply repeat him, it’s probably much easier to just head there for the full scope of improvement. Based on recruiting rankings and the glut of talent on this roster, I’d say Florida State is “back” in the sense they’re a top-15 program. But we’ll see if they can return to the national title conversation.

For the large majority of the 2012 season, the ‘Noles offense was an absolute force. And while they lose plenty — including quarterback EJ Manuel, halfback Chris Thompson and wide receiver Rodney Smith — there’s still plenty left over for another superb effort. Jameis Winston appears to be the real deal as the new starting passer, and he’ll have a very experienced, big offensive line in front of him to help with the transition. Bryan Stork and Tre’ Jackson in particular are two of the best linemen in the conference, and will play key roles in protecting Winston, who also has plenty of mobility. There’s much talk about the impact of tackle Menelik Watson’s departure to the pros (as there should be), but so long as everyone stays healthy, I don’t see a ton of drop-off. With the little depth they have across the offensive line, however, it’s something to watch out for.

At the skill positions, last year’s top target Rashad Greene is back, and prepared to take on a larger role in the passing game — but there’s a long, talented depth chart of pass-catchers behind him as well. No matter Winston’s ability to throw though, it’s likely Fisher will be calling for a run-heavy offensive attack, which he also has ample personnel for. Neither Devonta Freeman or James Wilder Jr. started the 2012 season atop the depth chart, but both managed over 100 carries apiece for a combined 1,295 yards and 19 scores. Last year, injuries limited every FSU running backs’ carries. In 2013, so long as they can stay healthy, there’s a good chance both of the ‘Noles featured rushers top the 1,000-yard mark.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #35, Rashad Greene

Florida State’s Jamison Crowder is #35 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Florida State’s Rashad Greene is #35 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

We’re less than 40 days from the start of the 2013 college football season, and that means preview countdowns! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 35, Rashad Greene, WR/Florida State (Last Season: NR)

For Florida State, last year’s weak schedule actually hindered quite a bit of production from their core offensive players. Between that and Jimbo Fisher’s overly conservative play-calling, potential stars like Rashad Greene found themselves putting up much lesser numbers than they were capable of — a large source of complaint for FSU fans throughout the fall. But that shouldn’t be the case this season. With a well-spaced schedule of competitive matchups, you won’t see the Seminoles starters sitting on the bench nearly as much, meaning big days from the entire offense.

Despite the limited playing time and emphasis on the run last season, Greene did still manage to put in an impressive effort as a sophomore. His 57 catches led the team, as did his 741 receiving yards and six scores. And he has an ability to get involved in the running game too, as he showed while scoring a rushing touchdown against USF. It’s Greene’s speed (4.47 40-yard dash time) that truly allows him to be everywhere on the field, and let him excel in 2012. Now, he’ll be counting on Fisher to let this offense turn him loose. The evidence is clear that he can be an enormous asset (see the USF or Virginia Tech victories in particular), but can he deliver those types of game-changing performances every single Saturday?

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ACC Announces Student-Athlete Attendees for 2013 ACC Football Kickoff

Clemson Quarterback Tajh Boyd is One of 28 Players Attending the ACC Football Kickoff

Clemson Quarterback Tajh Boyd is One of 28 Players Attending the ACC Football Kickoff

The ACC has announced the list of football student-athlete attendees for the ACC Football Kickoff today. A fancy way of saying “Media Days,” the event will take place on July 21 and 22 at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C. Each schools’ coaches will be in attendance, as will two representatives per team.

The list:

Boston College: QB Chase Rettig (Sr.), LB Steele Divitto (Sr.)

Clemson: QB Tajh Boyd (Sr.), LB Spencer Shuey (Sr.)

Duke: QB Anthony Boone (Jr.), CB Ross Cockrell (Sr.)

Florida State: WR Rashad Greene (Jr.), CB Lamarcus Joyner (Sr.)

Georgia Tech: OT Will Jackson (Sr.), DE Jeremiah Attoachu (Sr.)

Maryland: QB C.J. Brown (Sr.), CB Dexter McDougle (Sr.)

Miami: QB Stephen Morris (Sr.), DE Shayon Green (Sr.)

North Carolina: QB Bryn Renner (Sr.), DE Kareem Martin (Sr.)

N.C. State: WR Rashard Smith (Sr.), CB Dantae Johnson (Sr.)

Pittsburgh: WR Devin Street (Sr.), DT Aaron Donald (Sr.)

Syracuse: C Macky MacPherson (Sr.), DT Jay Bromley (Sr.)

Virginia: OT Morgan Moses (Sr.), DE Jake Snyder (Sr.)

Virginia Tech: QB Logan Thomas (Sr.), LB Jack Tyler (Sr.)

Wake Forest: WR Michael Campanaro (Sr.), LB Justin Jackson (Sr.)

Some additional thoughts:

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ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Sammy Watkins is the ACC's Top Receiver, But Does a Different Team's Wideouts Outpace Clemson's?

Sammy Watkins is the ACC’s Top Receiver, But Do a Different Team’s Wideouts Outpace Clemson’s?

While we’re still (barely) over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off till July and August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we’re on to the wide receivers and tight ends (we’ve also covered running backs and quarterbacks thus far). Like virtually every other conference in the country, you can’t necessarily call the overall receiving product in the ACC “stellar.” For some reason we’ve arrived at a dearth of talent at the position of late. But nonetheless, the league still possesses a strong group of receivers at the top, plus a ton of depth, even on the teams that are lower on this list.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual wide receiver or tight end is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of pass catchers is. Also note: Louisville (as has been the case since November) is included here. Additionally, since these are completely subjective rankings, the difference between the seventh and eighth team is almost entirely negligible (especially in the case of this position). Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

1. Florida State Seminoles: FSU just has too many players who can catch the ball in the open field, and that’s a good thing, especially when fielding an inexperienced quarterback. After a productive season last year (57 catches, 741 yards, six scores), Rashad Greene looks ready to take a huge leap forward for this group, and could be one of the better pass catchers in the ACC. Along with Greene, look out for Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin, especially Benjamin, who could end up being a breakout player for the ‘Noles this season following a productive freshman campaign. At tight end, Nick O’Leary should continue his improvement, but with so man other players looking for the ball, it’s uncertain how many passes are thrown his way.

2. Clemson Tigers: Replacing Brandon Ford (TE) and leading receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson certainly has their work cut out for them. But you can’t underestimate the receiving depth Chad Morris and Dabo Swinney have built on this Tigers roster. After an uneventful offseason, Sammy Watkins should be back to his freshman year form, which immediately takes the load off of Adam Humphries and Charone Peake. While not overly experienced, the two still caught 66 combined passes last year, which should trend even higher in 2013. Tight end is a question mark, though Stanton Seckinger likely has the inside track to starting there.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels: In year two of Larry Fedora’s offense, it’s time opposing teams started to fear this group. Quinshad Davis put up one of the best freshman receiving seasons in ACC history last year and there’s little doubt he’ll continue to produce at that level again. And he’ll have help, too. Fellow starter Sean Tapley brings further speed on the outside, while tight end Eric Ebron will be putting his athleticism to use against linebackers and corners alike. Ebron’s slated to be one of the best TEs in the country this year, and one look at his 6’4″ 245-pound frame leaves little question as to why.

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Phil Steele’s 2013 Preseason All-ACC Team

Clemson QB Tajh Boyd Headlines Phil Steele's Preseason All-ACC Team

Clemson QB Tajh Boyd Headlines Phil Steele’s Preseason All-ACC Team

As part of Phil Steele’s extensive 2013 season preview activities, today he released his picks for the All-ACC team. Not an overwhelming number of surprises to be found, but that said, there’s certainly some switches partisan fans might make here and there between first- and second-teams or third- and fourth-teams. Most notably, I’d probably move up UNC‘s Bryn Renner to the second team, while moving Virginia Tech‘s Logan Thomas down to the third — but the difference is negligible, really.

We won’t lay out the entire list for you here, but below we’ve included the first-team offense and defense, plus a school-by-school count of all players included on all four teams compiled by Steele. Regarding the latter, Florida State led the way with 19 players out of the 112 named, while Maryland had the least, with just three.

First Team All-ACC: Offense

QB: Tajh Boyd, Clemson

RB: Duke Johnson, Miami

RB: Devonta Freeman, Florida State

WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson

WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State

WR: Stefon Diggs, Maryland

TE: Eric Ebron, North Carolina

C: Bryan Stork, Florida State

OG: Tre’ Jackson, Florida State

OG: Brandon Linder, Miami

OT: Morgan Moses, Virginia

OT: James Hurst, North Carolina

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ACC Football Player of the Week, Week 11: Michael Rocco, Virginia

Virginia QB Michael Rocco is the ACC Player of the Week for Week 11

Each week, we’ll be identifying the best ACC player from that weekend’s games. As always, it’s a completely arbitrary award with no specific criteria beyond the vague concept of “excellence.” No, we don’t take write-ins.

ACC Player of the Week, Week 11: Michael Rocco, QB/Virginia

Considering what a mess this year has been for UVa and Rocco, it’s kind of amazing we’ve arrived here. With the Hoos’ season hanging in the balance, the junior passer finally appeared to step up and own the starting role, leading his team to a thrilling 41-40 victory over Miami on Saturday. After throwing just 38 total passes over the past four weeks, Rocco went 29-of-37 in this one, for 300 yards and four touchdowns. The completions (29), completion percentage (78.4) and touchdown total (four) were all career highs, as were his 18 consecutive completions during the game, but the focus should truly be on the final drive of the game. Down 40-35 with about two-and-a-half minutes remaining, Rocco led a 16-play, 87-yard drive culminating in a Jake McGee touchdown grab with just six seconds left on the clock. Obviously both the team and its quarterback have plenty of work to do if they truly hope to salvage the 2012 season, but this weekend, they took a definitive step in the right direction.

Honorable Mention:

Alec Lemon, WR/Syracuse (9 catches, 176 yards, 2 TD)

Ryan Nassib, QB/Syracuse (15/23 passing, 246 yards, 3 TD)

Rashad Greene, WR/Florida State (6 catches, 125 yards, 2 TD)

Duke Johnson, RB/Miami (368 all-purpose yards, 1 TD, 1 TD pass)

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