Will Florida State's defense be able to stop Clemson?
Find out the best match-ups in week 4 as the Horn breaks down which teams are set to win.
Last week we saw four more upsets across the college football landscape with the Panthers of Pitt beating Virginia Tech, USC falling to Stanford for the fourth year in a row, Notre Dame besting Michigan State on the road and Utah bouncing back from a loss to Utah State to defeat their other in-state rival BYU.
There could be more of the same in week 4, which features several games in which Top 25 teams will face off against one another.
The College GameDay gang will be setting up shop in Tallahassee to cover an ACC contest between #10 Clemson and #4 Florida State, so that is where we will begin our look into this week’s NCAA schedule.
Florida State has found its way back into the college football limelight with three dominating performances to open their schedule. Granted, the first two games were your typical non-conference cupcake games, but the third lopsided win was a 52-0 smack down of a scrappy Wake Forest team.
Most analyststhought that the Seminoles were going to be good this season and that they would have a more than solid shot of winning the ACC. Few imagined they would look as good as they do, and fewer would have conceived that they would make it to week 4 without giving up a single touchdown. The Seminoles have given up a grand total of three points in their first three games. In case you were wondering, yeah, that’s good enough for best in the FBS.
On top of that they have scored the second most points per game in the FBS over the first three weeks of the 2012 campaign, averaging 58.7 PPG.
Clemson hasn’t been that dominant, but they have showed plenty of talent and toughness. The Tigers opened their season with a neutral site game against Auburn, also the Tigers, in Atlanta and won that game 26-19. They followed it up in subsequent weeks by beating Ball State 52-27 and smacking Furman 41-7.
These two schools both fall into the ACC’s Atlantic division and they are really the only two football programs with any shot of winning said division, which means that in all likelihood this game will determine who represents the ACC-Atlantic in the conference championship game.
I think the key for Clemson is finding out if they can score on FSU’s defense, which has made major strides since last season. If the Tigers struggle to move the ball early on it could be over in a hurry considering the Seminoles have scored 63 of their 176 points this season in the first quarter. That’s 36% of their point production.
Watch for Clemson’s senior QB Tajh Boyd to focus on getting the ball to crazy-good WR Sammy Watkins who lit Florida State up last year for 141 yards on seven catches and two long touchdowns when he was just a freshman. Boyd also has wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and RB Andre Ellington at his disposal. If the Tigers can get that Boyd-to-Watkins connection going and avoid injuries to an offensive line that has some serious depth issues, they should do well.
The Seminoles, in addition to slowing down Watkins, have to be successful in the running game. So far this season their two-headed rushing attack, consisting of senior Chris Thompson and sophomore James Wilder Jr., have racked up 474 yards and seven touchdowns.
Just like with their O-line, Clemson has depth concerns on the defensive line. If Florida State can punch through the front four and force Clemson to pull up their line backers and defensive backs to make stops in the running game, it will open the door for Seminole QB EJ Manuel to sling the ball down field and burn the Tigers deep.
Despite strong showings by both teams in their first three games there are still concerns and questions surrounding them. Anticipate a high scoring game that comes down to the wire.
Florida State – 45
Clemson – 38
The action gets under way at 7:00 P.M. CST on Saturday, Sept. 22 and can be seen on ABC.
Other Games to Watch
California at #13 USC
Saturday, Sept. 22 at 5:00 P.M. CST on the Pac-12 Network
USC will try and get back to business at home this week after being “upset” on the road by Stanford for the fourth year in a row in week 3. Cal has started off the year a disappointing 1-2 after coming up short last week against Ohio State. The Golden Bears haven’t seemed to be able to find their groove this year, but they better do it fast if they want to avoid a slaughter at the Coliseum.
My pick: USC
#18 Michigan at #11 Notre Dame
Saturday, Sept 22 at 6:30 P.M. CST on NBC
Michigan seems to have finally recovered from the opening day thrashing they took from Alabama, but maybe that’s only because they played UMass last weekend. Notre Dame showed that they should be taken seriously last week by rolling into East Lansing, MI and knocking off Sparty. This week the Irish and Wolverines will face off under the lights in South Bend in what will be the 40th meeting of these storied rivals.
My pick: Notre Dame
#15 Kansas State at #6 Oklahoma
Saturday, Sept. 22 at 6:50 P.M. CST on FOX
The Wildcats have lost four in a row to Oklahoma and this year the task of beating the Sooners doesn’t get any easier despite the fact that K-State is vastly improved as compared to years gone by. OU gets to play this one at home which is a huge advantage, but if Landry Jones doesn’t have a break-out game the Wildcats gritty offensive attack and stout defense could knock Oklahoma down a peg or two. It is hard to bet against the Sooners in Norman, but…
My pick: Kansas State
#22 Arizona at #3 Oregon
Saturday, Sept. 22 at 9:30 P.M. CST on ESPN
This is going to be a high scoring affair. Both teams rank amongst the top 15 in the nation in points scored, though the Ducks do it on the ground (4th best rushing YPG) and Arizona prefers to use their passing attack (7th best passing YPG). The key to this one will be which team can find enough balance to avoid becoming one sided and thus easier to stop. Thus far in the season Arizona has done a better job of doing that and they have had the more impressive defense.
My pick: Arizona