CLEMSON – Leave it to a former quarterback to hype the Florida State-Clemson showdown as all about the dueling passers.
“I just look at this as a game of these two quarterbacks,” said ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who will provide color commentary for ABC. “Tajh Boyd has a chance to cement his legacy here at Clemson. A defining moment, really, in his career.
“Jameis Winston, he’s done everything you could ever hope for if you’re a Florida State fan, but this is a different atmosphere. I talked to him this week, and he’s not only embracing it, he’s looking forward to it. So can he play as well as he has up to this point? Can he be error-free, and avoid those big turnovers? If he can do that, it’s going to be an interesting game.”
Herbstreit acknowledged the veteran experience of Boyd will aid him, but the precocious youth of Winston won’t necessarily work against the road team’s leader.
“Sometimes you see it in the NBA, Major League Baseball and the NFL — we’re anticipating for younger players, the moment will be too big for them and they’re just too young to know any better, and they go out and play well,” Herbstreit said. “We see it in college football too. I think these quarterbacks are around so much when they’re in high school, that when they get to college I don’t think the moments are always that big.”
In 2012, an emerging redshirt freshman went on the road to a top-three opponent and shocked the nation. A similar situation beckons Saturday.
“Think of Johnny Manziel last year when he went to Tuscaloosa; he went in there like he owned the place,” Herbstreit said, referring to Texas A&M’s 29-24 win at Alabama. “Jameis Winston has some similar attributes from an intangible standpoint that Johnny has. So we’ll learn a lot more about him.
“Is he not just young enough, but does he have that brash confidence, that inner belief that he’s going to be able to make plays? Until you get out there, and you can’t hear, and your left tackle’s looking back like ‘what’s going on?’, and (Clemson defensive end) Vic Beasley’s getting a good jump on the ball — until you see him respond to that, you just don’t know.”
Longtime College GameDay host Chris Fowler meets with plenty of coaches during the course of the season. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher took different paths, but both have reached a desirable level of success to their fan base’s satisfaction.
“Dabo impresses me because I think he has really grown into the job. A lot of us weren’t sure what to make of him when he was an interim coach, a young guy jumping around the sidelines like a crazy man,” Fowler said. “I told him that when we were here a couple months ago. I said, ‘You really have become an impressive, comprehensive coach.’ He’s in command of all aspects of this program.
“He’s come a long way from that cheerleader-looking guy on the sidelines who was just hugging guys’ necks and running around so excited to be there. Very, very impressive what he’s built here.”
As for Fisher, “Jimbo took over for a legend (Bobby Bowden) where the regime, you could make the case, was getting a little bit stale at that point. He had to come in and re-energize it. There was a ton of turnover in the staff; there still is. But there’s fertile recruiting ground, and he’s a great recruiter, so few of us doubted Florida State would be back on track and competing for championships under him.”
Herbstreit was asked if the winner of Saturday’s game would have a chance to mess with the firm top two of Alabama and Oregon. The season’s first BCS standings will be released Sunday night.
“It depends on if it’s an emphatic win,” Herbstreit said. “If Clemson goes out and dominates, or Florida State goes on the road to Death Valley and dominates, that’s a whole different discussion compared to if it’s a shootout and they both score a lot of points — then I think it’s Alabama and Oregon and then everybody else.
“It’s a big stage. It’s a big opportunity. Ohio State sits at 3 in the coaches poll right now; I think the winner of this game will go past Ohio State in the BCS standings. I also think it’s an opportunity for Jameis and Tajh with the Heisman discussion; you always need a game like this to throw your hat in the ring. If one of them were to (play like) crazy and their team won, they’re definitely right in there with Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater.”
Fowler didn’t feel one team had more at stake than the other.
“They both have aspirations of winning a conference title and playing for a national championship,” Fowler said. “I think they’re in each other’s way, but they have similar goals, the programs are at similar levels right now.”