Last year, Jameis Winston threw for career-high 444 yards and three touchdowns in a 51-14 throttling of rival Clemson in Death Valley.
With the Tigers paying a visit to Tallahassee on Saturday, there was much intrigue about what Winston might do for an encore. However, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback will not get the opportunity to take on the Tigers after he was disciplined for reportedly standing up on a table in FSU’s student union on Tuesday and shouting an obscene phrase.
Initially, Winston was suspended for only the first half of Saturday’s game, but late Friday night the school released a statement announcing that he would not play against Clemson at all: "Based upon the results of our continuing investigation of Tuesday’s incident involving Jameis Winston, we have decided to not play him for the entire game against Clemson on Saturday night."
The "selfish act", as Winston called it, forces the Seminoles to start sophomore backup quarterback Sean Maguire in what has proven to be one of the ACC’s most pivotal games for the past half-decade. The winner of the Clemson-Florida State game has represented the Atlantic Division in the ACC championship game every year since 2009.
"It’s one of the premier games in our league every year," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "It’s a double whammy for me. It’s a conference game and an interdivisional game. So it’s a big one."
A 3-star recruit (according to Rivals.com) out of Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey, Maguire wasn’t recruited heavily, but has been waiting for this moment for a long time.
"It’s going to be pretty awesome, I’d like to imagine," Maguire said of his first start at the collegiate level. "You dream of this ever since you start playing little league ball, I don’t know how much better it gets than this."
The sophomore QB also mentioned receiving some fatherly advice on how to handle all the attention and pressure.
"At one point yesterday I had to turn off my phone, you know, even my dad was like ‘Hey son, start focusing on the other stuff,’" Maguire said. "I turned off my phone for a while and I think it was for the better."
Maguire will face a Clemson defense that boasts one of the nation’s top defensive lines, led by 2013 All-American Vic Beasley.
"Beasley is a very instinctive football player," Fisher said. "Not only quick but powerful, can change direction, he’s got body quickness, can run. He can rush the passer and he can play the run, he can transition speed into power very quickly. He’s relentless, very good football player."
On offense, the No. 22-ranked Tigers implement a hurry-up scheme, featuring a two-quarterback system of dual-threats in senior Cole Stoudt and freshman Deshaun Watson.
The ‘Noles have experience with fast-paced offenses and running quarterbacks after playing Oklahoma State and QB J.W. Walsh in their season opener.
"We learned our D-linemen and everybody has to stay in their rush lanes against mobile quarterbacks like that because if you give them a seam, they’ll take off," Seminoles team captain and middle linebacker Terrance Smith said. "We got to stay in our rush lanes and be sound up front."
Florida State’s offense will likely lean heavily on their running game and veteran offensive line, a unit that enters the game with five starting seniors and a combined 123 starts.
"It’s pretty awesome for all five of these guys to be seniors," Maguire said. "All the starts they’ve had, just to know that they have my back is extra confidence for me."
Clemson has revenge on its mind and the absence of Winston for Florida State opens the door for an upset. A loss would end the Seminoles’ 15-game winning streak vs. ACC opponents and snap their current nation-leading 18-game winning streak.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Clemson’s defensive line and Florida State’s offensive line are two of the most experienced units in the nation, and have been battling each other for years.
"Their offensive line is as good as there is out there," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "They are all seniors, very athletic, and very experienced."
The Seminoles also understand what’s in store for them come Saturday.
"They’re dynamic up front," Fisher said. "It seems like I’ve played against them ever since I’ve started coaching here. They’ve been here a long time."
An individual matchup within the matchup to watch is All-American DE Vic Beasley going up against All-American LT Cam Erving.
Beasley recorded 13 sacks last year, but zero against Erving and Florida State.
"So this is a really, really good match up if you just want to have some fun watching their offensive line and our defensive line," Swinney said. "I think that’s a great matchup and one that I’m looking forward to seeing."
Clemson: The Tigers’ offense has had back-to-back seasons of averaging over 40 points per game (ppg) and over 500 yards per game (ypg). In two games in 2014, the Tigers are averaging 47.0 ppg and 513.0 ypg.
Florida State: During FSU’s 18-game winning streak, the ‘Noles have scored 80 more touchdowns than their opponents (109-29).
Clemson: The Tigers have lost their last two games vs. FSU, including last year’s 51-14 throttling in Death Valley. Also, this marks the first time Clemson has entered this rivalry game with a loss on their record since 2010.
Florida State: The last time the Seminoles had to start a backup quarterback was Clint Trickett in 2011 against Clemson. Florida State lost 35-30.
Clemson:Out for Game — S Travis Blanks (knee), RB Tyshon Dye (Achilles); Out for Season — RB Zac Brooks (foot), T Oliver Jones (knee)
Florida State:Out for Game — LB Ukeme Eligwe (foot), DT Justin Shanks (ankle); Out For Season — DB Colin Blake (shoulder), LB Delvin Purifoy (ankle)
"First of all I want to apologize to my coaches and teammates. I’m not a ‘me person’ but in that situation that was a selfish act and that’s not how you do things around here." — QB Jameis Winston’s statement at press conference regarding his suspension
"Florida State has won 18 in a row, I think, and [there’s] been a long line of folks that have tried to knock them off and we’re up next, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to go down there and excited about being a part of a game like this." — Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
"He just brought me into his office and told me this situation. Told me to be ready. He said, ‘The game plan is not changing. This team is not changing. We are going to go out there in the first half and do everything that we usually would.’ He has all the confidence in the world in me. He just expects nothing to change and so do I." — QB Sean Maguire on what head coach Jimbo Fisher said to him about starting
DID YOU KNOW?
Florida State and Clemson are the only two schools in the nation to finish the 2013 season in the top 25 in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense and total defense.
Florida State takes on ACC opponent North Carolina State, Sept. 27 in Raleigh, N.C.