Friday, September 21, 2012

Clemson at FSU - Prediction

Hours and pages have been spent breaking down the winning keys for both Florida State and Clemson; determining what each needs to do to secure a win and get a leg up in the ACC Atlantic Division.

Here's what we know:
  • FSU has a clear advantage playing at home, at night, and at Doak Campbell
  • Clemson needs to establish some semblance of a running game
  • The game will be won in the trenches, with FSU's defensive line being the best unit
  • Clemson must take away the big plays and force FSU to drive the ball
  • Special teams are fantastic for both team
  • Turnovers & field position is the wild card and could swing the game either way

What Really Happens
Clemson comes out just as fired up as FSU and has early success on both offense and defense. The offense notches a field goal on their first drive and a touchdown on their second, while the Clemson defense implements the bend but don't break method to keep FSU off the board. The result is an early 10-0 lead for the Tigers.

Unfortunately, FSU settles down and their offense begins to find a rhythm. They reach the end zone on back to back possessions (with a Clemson FG sandwiched between) to take their first lead at 14-13. The teams go back and forth the rest of the half, but Clemson finds pay dirt to FSU's field goal as Clemson heads to the locker room up 20-17.

The second half slows down as both teams struggle to find offensive success. The game turns into a field position battle until FSU mounts a drive into Clemson territory, but is forced to settle for a field goal to tie it at 20. The score remains tied until early in the 4th when Clemson pushes the ball inside the FSU 10, but is forced to settle for a short field goal and a 23-20 lead. FSU responds with a long, methodical touchdown drive to take a 27-23 lead. The score stays 27-23 FSU until Clemson's last drive. They once again move the ball into FSU territory, but are unable to score a touchdown and turn the ball over on downs. FSU milks the clock with a first down and ends the game in victory formation.

For Clemson fans, this game will feel eerily similar to the Auburn game of 2010 where Clemson plays hard, smashmouth football, but can't hold an early lead. There is disappointment in the loss, but heads are held high in the way this team played. The hope for 2012 is the team doesn't have a hangover week in Chestnut Hill like they did at home to Miami in 2010.

Summary
At the conclusion of the Furman game, I thought there is no chance this Clemson team leaves Tallahassee with a win. The offensive line looked tentative, the defensive front seven looked soft, and the secondary looked lost.

Then something happened, and everything changed: Vegas, the pundits, and the media fell hard for FSU. The spread opened at 12 in FSU's favor and quickly climbed to 13.5. Everyone wanted a piece of FSU. And no one had any respect for Clemson.

And the more people fawned over FSU, the more it solidified Clemson. And the more I liked this Clemson team. Enough to cove the two touchdown spread? Yes. Enough to win outright on the road? No, unfortunately.

FSU 27
Clemson 23

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