It's a long way from Berlin to Tallahassee. Yes, THAT Berlin, the one in Germany, for the international, Carmen Sandiego noobs out there. Not only has Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner made that trip, he's turned it into a one-way ticket as he's become one of the most disruptive defenders in the ACC.
Prior to the season, it appeared that Werner and Brandon Jenkins would form the best defensive end duo in the nation, but Jenkins injured his foot in the opening game of the season, ending his campaign on the spot. Even though DE Cornelius Carradine has played well in Jenkins stead, Werner should be the focal point of the Clemson offensive blocking scheme.
Clemson, with its quick passing game, bubble screens and draws/screen to RB Andre Ellington, can neutralize Werner's power rush off the edge. But, if Clemson gets in 2nd/3rd and long repeatedly, the Tigers are going to have to game plan to keep #95 from traveling all over the backfield. Werner doesn't fly off the edge with dominating speed, but he has an uncanny knack of using his hands to free himself to get to the quarterback. He's relentless with his pass rush and the Tigers must keep the Seminoles from being "Bjoern Again".
When Clemson star WR Sammy Watkins was arrested in the off-season and it appeared he would be suspended for a game or two early in the season, no Tiger was put under the spotlight more than the man nicknamed Nuke. He got the nickname Nuk because he apparently broke a bunch of Nuk brand pacifiers when he was younger. Nuke seems to fit Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins that much more because of his proclivity of making the explosive play on the field.
Regardless, Hopkins knew he and Ellington needed to step up in the opener against Auburn. And each one did. "Nuke" finished with a Clemson record 13 receptions and if you'd never seen Clemson play prior to that night, you'd never know that Watkins even existed.
With Watkins back, Hopkins' production should drop a bit. However, because Watkins gets so much attention no matter where he lines up, "Nuke" should still impact this matchup in a major way. Clemson OC Chad Morris has a knack for exploiting match ups and with Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes, presumably, shadowing Watkins, Hopkins should find a matchup to his liking…and to Clemson's liking. Expect "Nuke" to detonate in Tally on Saturday night.
…or some parable like that, but the premise is easy enough to figure out. Both teams have played three games this season. The early season jitters should be gone. Both defenses will be in rhythm, jacked up beyond belief, looking across the line of scrimmage at one of its most hated opponents.
Because that is more than likely the case, this is the week that tackling can go to absolute he…., well, heck. Complicating matters is the fact that Clemson and Florida State have some of the most offensively gifted athletes in the nation - Watkins, Hopkins, Chris Thompson, Tahj Boyd, E.J Manuel et. al.
Point is, tackling is difficult enough, but tackling the offensive weapons on this field is magnified ten-fold. Now, it's not as if Florida State and Clemson have a gaggle of dolts on defense but the team that misses more tackles will lose this game. Pure and simple.
I haven't mentioned the quarterbacks at all in the keys above, but there's no question that the spotlight is squarely on Florida State QB E.J. Manuel to stand up and play like a Boss. Clemson QB Tahj Boyd has done that previously and he's comfortable carrying the Clemson offense if need be.
However, Manuel has never had that one game that sets him apart from the gaggle of game managing college quarterbacks in the nation. It's time for the former 5-star recruit to make ALL the key plays, be the star and carry the Seminoles to victory.
I'm going to take a leap of faith…a 6'5" leap of faith and look to Manuel to lead the Seminoles with 300+ yards passing and a couple of touchdowns, including one on the ground in a program-redefining win over Clemson.
Florida State - 28 vs. Clemson - 23