FSU Beat: Epic Noles-Tigers Clash Just Days Away

It seems silly to imply that the winner of a week four match up will determine the winner of the 2012 ACC Championship, but given the current state of the conference it is frighteningly plausible. Clemson and Florida State represent the only two teams in the ACC that are still unbeaten and at numbers 10 and 4 respectively, the only ACC teams that are currently ranked in the top 25.

Neither team has given much reason to believe they can navigate their way through the conference schedule without hiccups in recent years, but this season could be different. The game has everything that a big time conference game needs. Both teams are in the top 10, it’s an 8:00 p.m kickoff, and it will be a strength on strength match up when Florida State’s dominant defense squares up with Clemson’s prolific offense. The Tigers and Seminoles will be battling for the right to control their destiny in a quest for the ACC Championship this season.

The Seminoles are the favorites in this matchup, and the home crowd figures to play a pretty big role in how this plays out. Last season, Clemson’s offensive play took a considerable dip on the road. The Tigers like to take advantage of a high tempo pace and getting a ton of snaps off in order to heighten the chance of an explosive play breaking loose, and they are very, very good at this. The challenge is that it becomes much more difficult to sustain on the road, when the opposing crowd is rowdy and disruptive to communication at the line of scrimmage, which is crucial for a fast paced, hurry up offense.

In 2011, the Tigers averaged 80 plays per game at home vs. 68 plays per game on the road. With Chad Morris as their offensive coordinator, Clemson has only lost one game in which they have gotten off 70 offensive plays or more. Quarterback Tajh Boyd’s play suffered on the road as well, with seven of his 12 interceptions on the year coming in Clemson’s five road games, and scoring just seven touchdowns on the road vs. 26 at home. Boyd’s yards per passing attempt dropped by two full yards, his completion percentage dipped below 55%, and his overall QB rating was 44 points lower on the road. Clemson’s road record at the end of the year was 2-3 and in each of the three losses, the powerful offense was held to less than 20 points in the game (17, 13, 13).

The beauty here for Clemson is that this is not 2011 and Tajh Boyd looks like a better player here in the early going. The Tigers have an opportunity to rewrite their road narrative, and it starts Saturday night on a huge stage at Doak Campbell Stadium. The problem is that despite how the Clemson offense plays, the FSU offense matches up well enough with their defense to control the time of possession and move the ball well all game. Clemson has not played good defense in 2012, despite the 3-0 mark, and their signature victory to date against Auburn looks less and less impressive with each passing week.

To date, Clemson has allowed each of their opponents to put up their best or second best rushing performances on the year. This includes giving up 252 total yards on 6.3 yards per carry to Ball State. This is where Florida State could take advantage and win this game. FSU is averaging 7.61 yards per carry, which is good for best in the nation. While Clemson may be the most talented team FSU has faced to date, their run defense is still allowing 4.77 yards per carry and is 82nd in the nation in total rush defense through three games. How well each team plays in this aspect could very well be the determining factor in the game.

I expect this to be a very entertaining and tough game, with two of the top units in all of college football going toe to toe in Clemson’s offense and Florida State’s defense. The argument of either team not knowing what they truly have will be done away with after Saturday. Neither of the powerhouse units will face tougher opponents all year. Hopefully for the sake of the conference, this is a well played, competitive football game. It is no secret that the national perception of the conference is not the best–for good reason. A great showing on this stage and an elite competitor emerging after Saturday night would be good for the ACC.

Adam Tolliver, @primediscussion on TwitterAdam Tolliver is an Atlanta, GA native and college football enthusiast who has been covering Florida State Seminole sports for three years. He is currently a contributor at Tomahawknation.com and XOFan.com, where he consistently delivers honest and accurate commentary and reporting regarding Florida State Seminole Football and Men’s Basketball. You can find Adam’s personal twitter account @primediscussion, where he spouts out about all things under the sun, or you can follow @Unconquered_FSU, which is exclusively dedicated to FSU Sports.

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