Dominant FSU prepares for Clemson test
Murray State placekicker Jordan Benton's 28-yard field goal in the second quarter of the Racers' season-opener at Florida State is all that stands in the way of perfection for the Seminoles' defense so far this season.
That kick, which cut FSU's lead to 21-3 with 4:36 remaining before halftime, is the only time an opponent has scored on Jimbo Fisher's defense.
Murray failed to score again while FSU finished the night with 69 points. Savannah State also failed to score in a 55-0 loss that was shortened by a terrible rain and lightning storm. The game was called after only 10 offensive plays had been run in the third quarter, but it's unlikely Savannah would have scored, as it had just 28 yards at the time and was shut out at Oklahoma State the week before.
And last weekend, a much more potent and talented Wake Forest team entered Doak Campbell Stadium having beaten the Seminoles in four of the previous six meetings, but was blanked 52-0 while amassing just 126 total yards.
Wake was a legitimate challenge for a Seminoles defense some pundits believe is the best in the nation. But No. 4 FSU (3-0) turned back the Demon Deacons as if they were from a lower division. Saturday's opponent, Clemson, however, will be a different animal altogether.
The 3-0 and 10th-ranked Tigers visit Tallahassee on Saturday night in one of the more highly anticipated ACC games in recent memory. Clemson is loaded at the skill positions and can explode for scores from any spot on the field. This just may be the toughest test FSU's defense will face all season.
"They have very good players and they're well coached," Fisher said about the Tigers. "They do a very good job. They understand their scheme and what they do. They're very precise and detailed. They do a great job of misdirection and they coach it very well. All of those things go into what they do. It all goes together."
Clemson is averaging 517 yards and just less than 40 points per game, which includes 528 in a 26-17 season-opening victory over Auburn in Atlanta. And Clemson didn't even have the breathtaking services of sophomore wide receiver Sammy Watkins in two of those contests, including the Auburn game.
Tajh Boyd has passed for 747 yards, six touchdowns and an interception. DeAndre Hopkins already has 26 receptions for 319 yards and four scores. And tailback Andre Ellington is averaging 109 yards rushing per game despite limited service in the last two games because they were blowouts.
The Tigers, who scored 35 points and totaled 443 yards in a victory at home over FSU a year ago, can hit opposing defenses from any spot on the field either through the air or on the ground using a variety of personnel groupings.
"The diversity of it – they can run it and throw the ball," Fisher said is what concerns him most about Clemson. "They can run the football. They've got outstanding linemen, they've got great backs, receivers that make big plays. They can throw the ball downfield, the quarterback can scramble and run, it's deceiving. They're well coached.
"I could go on and on. It's the balance and the big play capabilities that off of it."
Clemson has scored after long drives and on explosive plays so far. It has two touchdown runs of 58 and 27 yards, plus a dazzling Ellington burst versus Auburn that went for 68 yards before he was brought down. Passing scores have been for 34, 30 and 39 yards.
Last season, Clemson scored touchdowns on passing plays of 32 or more yards on 10 occasions, and on seven rushing scores from 31 or more yards. Three went for 68, 74 and 75 yards.
FSU's defense has allowed just 310 total yards this season. So the degree of the challenge is obvious, and the magnitude of the outcome may be the greatest of any game the Seminoles have played in a decade.
Win and they are the ACC's front-runner. Win impressively and FSU will vault into the national championship picture.