CLEMSON – Fair warning: if you have nightmares over last year’s night of Sept. 20, then you should probably shut off the Internet the first week of November this fall.
We kind of have no choice but to rehash how many different ways Clemson coughed up a huge, huge, huge opportunity to defeat its first No. 1-ranked opponent in school history, throw the College Football Playoff race in a blender, exorcise its chief rival in Florida State and reclaim ACC supremacy.
In a nice gesture, we’re not going to go over all the ways Clemson coughed up all those things in this blog. But, come Nov. 1, look out.
Anyway, Everett Golson’s a happy guy. He should be. All Jimbo Fisher’s quarterbacks have done have gotten drafted No. 1 overall with significant character questions (Jameis Winston), gotten drafted No. 16 overall with very nice (if not Heisman-y) career statistics (EJ Manuel) and gotten drafted No. 12 overall despite an up-and-down career and possibly a weaker arm than his wife (Christian Ponder.)
But outside of Tallahassee, fans won’t care how high Golson goes in the 2016 NFL Draft. They’ll be more interested in seeing if Golson can live up to Winston’s winning ways, when the Noles won his first 27 games in uniform before getting trounced by Oregon in the inaugural College Football Playoff semifinal.
Real quick, by the way: my favorite Florida State statistic of 2014 was its 13-1 overall record and 3-11 record against the Las Vegas point spread. Pretty much says it all about the Seminoles winning the ACC and making the playoff by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin.
Florida State coach: Jimbo Fisher (58-11, 6th season)
Returning starters: 10 (3 offense, 7 defense)
2014 record: 13-1, 8-0 ACC
Scoring offense: 33.7 points per game (35th in FBS)
Scoring defense: 25.6 points allowed (50th)
Series: FSU leads 19-8, including 8-5 in Death Valley
Opposing beat writer to follow: Brendan Sonnone, Orlando Sentinel (@osfsu)
1. Go, Golson, Go: The Goose Creek product who both started a national championship game and was suspended an entire year for academic reasons at Notre Dame sees his college career come full circle in probably the safest environment in the country for a quarterback deadset on becoming a first-round pick. That he won’t visit Death Valley on Oct. 3 with the Irish, or (ahem) on Nov. 28 with his home state’s SEC program, spruces up Clemson’s schedule merely based on how much raw talent surrounds Golson. Dalvin Cook’s a sterling running back, and while there are questions about replacing receiver Rashad Greene plus nearly the entire offensive line, Golson’s experience should shine through.
2. Ball hawkers: What was more stunning about FSU’s statement win in its previous visit to Clemson: the 51 part, or the 14 part? No contest. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins were positively flummoxed by the Noles’ aggressive D, when then-coordinator Jeremy Pruitt posited no fear in the Tigers’ high-octane offense that night. Although the coordinator and personnel has changed in two years, swagger-filled FSU is guided by omnipresent defensive back Jalen Ramsey, beefy linebackers Reggie Northrup and Terrance Smith and a wealth of younger, highly-touted defenders ready to make life difficult again for ACC opponents.
3. No fear of the lights: Clemson’s been as good as almost anybody at home at night, but Florida State embarrassed the Tigers two years ago. Everybody thought Louisville would be the team to, as it were, conquest the FSU Zombies of 2014, but Winston led a terrific second-half comeback to win by double digits. Fisher is 27-7 in games away from Doak Campbell Stadium. At any rate, we should pretty much all be shocked if FSU-Clemson doesn’t end up being a big deal in Week 10.
Week before: at N.C. State
Next week: at Syracuse
On the horizon: at South Carolina