The Tigers welcome, if that is the word, the Florida St. Seminoles into Death Valley this Saturday night for a critical ACC Atlantic Division matchup. The winner takes even more control of their destiny, while the loser would need help. In fact, if FSU loses, their ACC chances are pretty much over. The game starts at 7:45 p.m., and will be televised nationally by ESPN. The Noles have been on a bit of a roll lately - after an 0-3 start in the conference, the Seminoles (4-4, 2-3 ACC) have won two games in a row and can score points in bunches. However, defense is another story: Out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, FSU ranks No. 93 in scoring defense, No. 97 against the pass, No. 101 against the rush and No. 109 in total defense. Only one FBS opponent has failed to notch at least 27 points against the Seminoles, who have surrendered 49 plays of 20 yards or more in eight games, more than double that of Clemson's defense (23).
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Christian Ponder, QB - Through eight games, the junior quarterback is building a strong case for inclusion in the conversation as one of the nation’s premier players. His numbers are actually better than Texas’ Colt McCoy and Florida’s Tim Tebow. He leads the ACC in passing yards (2,453), completions (206), attempts (297), completion percentage (69.4), passing yards per game (306.6), total offense (327.4 ypg) and interception avoidance. Ponder ranks in the top five nationally in total offense (3rd), passing yards per game (5th), total passing yards (5th) and completions per game (5th). He also ranks 13th in efficiency. Ponder has recently been added to the list of candidates for the Maxwell and Manning Awards.
Rod Owens, WR – The senior caught seven passes for 65 yards and one touchdown in the Seminoles’ victory over NC State. He has now caught more passes this season (36) for more yards (481) than he did during the first three seasons of his career. (30 catches for 351 yards in his first three seasons). In his last four games he has caught 21 passes and scored three touchdowns.
Jermaine Thomas, RB – The ssophomore gained a career-high 186 yards rushing in the Seminoles’ victory over NC State last week– the most by a Florida State running back since 195 rushing yards by Leon Washington in the 2005 Gator Bowl win over West Virginia. He averaged 9.3 yards per rush – 186 yards on 20 carries – against the Wolfpack and enters Saturday’s game against Clemson averaging 5.5 yards per rush on a career-high tying 69 rushes this season.
Mickey Andrews, Defensive Coordinator – The longtime defensive guru of the Seminoles, who announced that he will retire at the end of this season, was actually the defensive coordinator at Clemson from 1977-1980.
Justin Bright, S – The freshman safety played his high school ball at Byrnes High School.
Dekoda Watson, LB – The senior played at South Aiken High School.
Everett Dawkins, DE – The redshirt freshman also played at Byrnes High School.
CLEMSON – DE Da’Quan Bowers (out, knee).
FSU - OUT FOR THE SEASON: LB Maurice Harris (neck), TE Caz Piurowski (knee). OUT FOR CLEMSON: CB Dionte Allen (thumb), OT Garrett Faircloth (hip), OT Antwane Greenlee (knee), LB Aaron Gresham (knee), DT Demonte McAllister (knee), OT John Prior (knee), DT Budd Thacker (knee), LB Vince Williams (back). QUESTIONABLE: CB Xavier Rhodes (thumb), CB Patrick Robinson (ankle). PROBABLE: WR Richard Goodman (groin), RV Korey Mangum (shoulder),
DT Justin Mincey (knee), LB Dekoda Watson (groin).
Florida State has a 16-6 advantage in the series with Clemson, but the Tigers have won four of the last six, including three in a row from 2005-07. Clemson became the first ACC school to defeat the Seminoles three years in a row when it won in 2007 at Clemson by a 24-18 score.
DID YOU KNOW?
Saturday will end a streak. Clemson had faced a top 25 Florida State team in 19 consecutive meetings prior to this week. Florida State had been ranked in the top 25 for every meeting against Clemson since 1988. The Seminoles were ranked 24th in both polls entering the game last year. Five of Clemson’s six wins in the series have been against Ttop 20 Florida State teams. The only time Clemson beat an FSU
team not ranked in the top 25 was in 1976.
DID YOU HEAR?
In preparation for the game on Saturday, the Seminoles did something they rarely do – they practiced inside Doak Campbell Stadium on Wednesday and piped in crowd noise. FSU normally does that on Thursdays before they play road games, but head coach Bobby Bowden said his team needed it twice this week. ``That is one of the loudest stadiums there is,” Bowden said of Death Valley.