This is it. The game that prompted ESPN to make a second trip to Clemson. The game that will keep the National Championship hopes of one team alive, while crushing the other team’s similar aspirations. It’s also the game that will help determine the legitimacy of a few NFL Draft prospects that will be on the field.
No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 Florida State are getting all of the attention on this college football Saturday, and rightfully so. It’s been a long time since an ACC match-up got the hype the Tigers and Seminoles have gotten all week.
The game matches up Florida State freshman sensation quarterback Jameis Winson with the weathered and experienced senior quarterback Tajh Boyd for Clemson. By all accounts, this is Clemson’s year. But a superstar freshman has Florida State thinking the same thing about its team.
At the back of everyone’s mind on Saturday night will be NFL Draft stock, but players will be affecting their standing in the eyes of NFL scouts throughout this marquee game.
Here are the players to watch.
When Clemson has the football
Tajh Boyd has developed better than most thought he would and now looks like the top senior quarterback prospect in the entire country. He’s a bit short, but Boyd excels at adjusting his throwing platform and moving his feet to find throwing lanes. He has the build to take a punishment in the running game, and he does so often. He’s stepped up in Clemson’s biggest games and Saturday is another chance.
Boyd won’t find life easy in the running and short passing games. Linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith are both athletic players that pack as much punch in pass coverage as they do in the running game. The read option game may be tough to get going, and with the amount of quick passing Boyd does, he may need to make some adjustments.
Lucky for Clemson, Boyd has Sammy Watkins to throw to on the outside. The junior wide receiver is at the top of our position rankings and will be a key to Clemson’s offense on Saturday night. Coaches have begun to question whether he’ll show up for the big game. He has a tough matchup against Florida State cornerback Lemarcus Joyner, so we’ll see how he holds up. Safety Terrance Brooks is also worh keeping an eye on.
When Florida State has the football
All eyes will be on Jameis Winson when Florida State has the ball, but the redshirt freshman quarterback is not eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft. That shifts our attention to the running game, where James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman may both have a shot at playing on Sundays. Center Brian Stork is a legitimate prospect as well.
The most intriguing prospect on Clemson’s defense is defensive end Vic Beasley, who has broken out a bit in 2013. He has the length and speed off the edge to make a big impact and has been doing so on a consistent basis. We’ll see if it continues.
Question of the night
Who wins the battle between Clemson’s short passing game and Florida State’s linebackers?
Mentioned above, this is the key to the football game. If Boyd and company can’t find a way to make adjustments to their game plan and figure out a way to keep Florida State’s linebacker off balance, it could be tough sledding for Clemson’s offense.
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