The countdown is on to Clemson football first in Athens (Georgia) and then back in TigerTown on Sept. 6 (S.C. State).
We’re counting down the Clemson schedule – by strength of schedule – with a quick profile, team I.D. and prediction.
The Tigers and ‘Noles have determined the ACC champ four years running – and will again. A look at the reigning champs…
Clemson Countdown to Kickoff
12) S.C. State
11) Georgia State
10) Wake Forest
9) N.C. State
6) Georgia Tech
1) Florida State Seminoles
Plays Clemson: at Doak Campbell Stadium, Sept. 20, time TBA.
2013 Record: 14-0 (8-0 ACC, 1st in the Atlantic).
Coach: Jimbo Fisher (45-10 career record).
Offense (2013 ranks): Multiple (Scoring offense: 2, 51.6 PPG; Yards per play: 1, 7.7; Field position advantage: 2).
Defense (2013 ranks): 4-3 Multiple (Def. yards per play: 2, 4.1; Scoring defense: 1, 12.1 PPG; 3rd down defense: 8, 31.9%).
Advanced stats: Success Rate – 2 (54.5%); Points per trip inside the 40 – 2 (5.5); Adj. line yards – 16 (113.1); Def. Success Rate – 3 (32.5%); Def. points per trip inside the 40 – 4 (3.2); Def. adj. line yards – 7 (122.7).
Returning starters: Offense – 7; Defense – 6; Kickers – 2;
ACC Unit Ranks: Coach – 1; QB - 1; RB – 2; WR - 1; TE - 3; OL - 1; DL - 2; LB - 1; DB - 2; ST - 1.
Florida State Identity
1. The Manziel corollary? - For all the offseason sideshow Johnny Manziel was post-Heisman-win, he still got it done on the field after being the first freshman to earn the honor. He scored more touchdowns (48 to 47) and improved his QB rating by 17 points (172.89 to 155.32). FSU quarterback Jameis Winston – if anything – proved to be unflappable in the face of off-the-field allegations last year, and he had a touch of offseason trouble surrounding Publix and some stolen crab legs. Winston (6-4 235) led the nation far-and-away with a 185 QB rating as one of three quarterbacks to average 10 yards per pass attempt (10.6) – one of two to average over nine yards per play (9.09). The yards weren’t cheap either – 35 of his 40 TD passes in the first three quarters, attempting just 36 fourth quarter passes (similar to Tajh Boyd, who had 41). Against Clemson-Miami-Florida-Auburn (four-most talented teams faced), he averaged 333 passing yards with 10 touchdowns. In short, Winston’s as good as advertised and not going away.
2. Offense built upfront-out - The ‘Noles have two first-team All-ACC linemen and 114 career starts in total returning. Karlos Williams steps in as a primary back after eight yards per carry with 11 scores converting from a DB role last season. Winston has the ACC’s top returning target in Rashad Greene, who’s among the top-five nationally with 2,465 career receiving yards and 22 touchdowns, and one of the conference’s top tight ends in Nick O’Leary. Factor in the stockpile of skill position talent coming off redshirts or moving up on the depth chart and FSU will have a scary offense.
3. Reloading on ‘D’? - FSU faces replacing its top three tacklers – one at each level in linebacker Telvin Smith (90), cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (69, 4 PBUs, 2 INTs) and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (63, 4.5 sacks). Of course, it doesn’t hurt when new defensive coordinator Charles Kelly can turn to five-star talents like end Mario Williams (9.5 TFL) and safety Jalen Ramsey to take an even bigger role. FSU has had a top-five defense each of the last three seasons…and should be right around there in 2014.
Projected Record: 12-0 (8-0 ACC).
(Way too early) Florida State pick: 41-31 Seminoles.
Analysis: Florida State averaged a 50-point margin of victory at home against FBS opponents last year. That dropped just to 45 per against ACC competition. Last time in Tallahassee, Brent Venables’ defense gave up 667 yards, but the Tigers still managed to keep it a two-score game (49-37). In 2010, Clemson outgained Florida State by 84 yards and was a 55-yard field goal from forcing overtime. In fact, the last four games at FSU have been within one-score going into the final period. It won’t be a good look for the program if FSU runs it up again, and I don’t think they will cover as high as the 17 to 20-point projected spread.