Tajh Boyd

CFT Predicts: Florida State-Clemson

10 Comments

For the second time this season, and about the fifth or sixth time the past three years, we have yet another Game of the Year/Century/Millennium on tap.

The latest iteration lugging around the “Game of the…” tag that’s enveloped sports in general and college football in particular is, of course, Florida State-Clemson. While taking a jab at the hype surrounding this and other such games, there’s little doubt that this matchup is dripping with ACC and, more importantly, BCS title implications.

Clemson comes into the game in Death Valley ranked No. 3 in the country. Florida State, thanks to Stanford’s upset loss, climbed into the Top Five at No. 5. Simply put, the winner will keep itself squarely in the mix for a spot in the BCS championship game while the loser see its title hopes diminish significantly.

How significantly?  The last 10 BCS title games have featured nine one- or two-loss teams; six of those came from the SEC, and none from the ACC.

A loss won’t end any and all title hopes for either team, but it will make the BCS row tougher to hoe. And force it to not only win out but to rely on the teams above them to stumble down the stretch.

At least statistically, FSU and Clemson are about as even as you can get, even as the oddsmakers are making FSU three-point favorites on the road.  Nationally, the Tigers and Seminoles are ranked in the Top 30 in every major statistical category but two: Clemson’s rush offense and rush defense.  For the statistical Tale of the Tape…

FSU-Clemson Stats

Of course, statistics only scratch the surface and doesn’t even begin take into account intangibles.

The game will be played in Tiger Stadium, one of the most electrifying and, for visitors, hostile environments in college football.

Getting his first start in such an environment is Jameis Winston.  While the redshirt FSU freshman has seen himself injected in the Heisman conversation after just a handful of starts, his only road tests thus far have been at Pittsburgh and Boston College.

On the flip side is Tajh Boyd, a battle-tested three-year starter who is among the best players at his position in the country, even as he still doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

Hype aside, the game has all of the makings of an instant classic.  How will it play out?  Let us here at CFT peer into our collective crystal balls (stop giggling and grow up, people) and take a shot at it.

KEVIN MCGUIRE
There is no doubt this game is the game of the year in the ACC. A pair of Top-Ten teams and Heisman contenders has all the makings of a conference championship game, but unfortunately we will not get a chance to watch this one again at the end of the season. While I have been impressed by what freshman sensation Jameis Winston has done for Florida State this season, we will finally get the chance to answer one of the few unanswered questions about him: how will he handle leading the offense in an environment that will be pumping the volume up from the start? If Aaron Murray, a seasoned quarterback with plenty of big game experience, failed to get out of Death Valley with a win, why should I bank on Winston being able to do so in his first real road test (sorry Boston College fans). I think Winston gets a bit of an eye-opener on the road at Clemson, but he’ll make his plays.

The big question for me comes down to defense. Can Clemson limit the big plays by Florida State? Can the Seminoles find a way to force Tajh Boyd to make some mistakes? I think Boyd and Sammy Watkins come up with enough plays to get the Tigers one step closer to the ACC championship game, allowing them to begin sniffing around for something a bit more enticing.

Prediction: Clemson 35, Florida State 28

CHRIS HOUSTON
This one should be a shootout on the magnitude of last year’s game, which the Seminoles won, 49-37. However, I think the tables will be turned this time, with Clemson coming out on top. As good as Jameis Winston has been for FSU, he has yet to go up against a quality defense with high-level athletes. I think the game will be won in the first half, with the Tigers and Tajh Boyd coming out sharp and jumping out to a lead while FSU struggles to get rolling.

However, I think Winston adjusts and gets hot in the second half and makes a game of it. But it won’t be enough and the Tigers will stay undefeated by the skin of their teeth.

Prediction:: Clemson 41, Florida State 38

JJ STANKEVITZ
FSU hasn’t really played anyone, but then again neither has Clemson since Week 1. I like the Georgia win, but basing a prediction off one game that happened a month and a half ago doesn’t seem safe.

Mainly, though, I’m drinking the Jameis Winston Kool-Aid. His stats are nuts: 90/123, 1,441 yards and 17 touchdowns in five games. FSU had an extra week to prepare while Clemson underperformed against Boston College. It’ll be close, but ultimately I think Winston makes the plays when it counts, and FSU sneaks out a win.

Prediction: Florida State 31, Clemson 27

JOHN TAYLOR
For every five times I’ve picked Clemson in my head, I’ve picked Florida State the same amount.  Yes, that’s how close this game should be.  FSU has a top-10 defense, while Clemson’s unit is underrated and undervalued.  While I think Boyd will outplay Winston (slightly) based solely on experience, I see the QB position being essentially a wash.

Where the tide will turn in favor of the Seminoles is in the running game.  The Tigers have been susceptible to the run at various points this season, and Clemson has yet to face a three-headed ground-game beast like Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr.  And that’s without even mentioning Winston’s ability to make/keep plays alive with his legs.

This game will be close, as close as most observers expect.  The whole Death Valley aura, especially, has me teetering back and forth on a selection.  I have to pick somebody, though — and if you asked me in two hours the answer might be different — so, based on everything up to and including a flip of the coin, I’m going with…

Prediction: Florida State 38, Clemson 34

Police give ‘all-clear’ after threat was made against Beaver Stadium

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Joe Paterno is seen on the scoreboard during a time out against the Temple Owls during the game on September 17, 2016 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Apparently someone didn’t want the Minnesota-Penn State game to go on.  Or has waaay too much time on their hands.  Or both.

Penn State Police confirmed Saturday that the department had “received information about a potential threat made against Beaver Stadium” prior to today’s game.  According to a release, “[p]olice have conducted several exhaustive searches of the facility and surrounding areas, and have found no evidence of a potential risk.”

The game, scheduled for a 3:30 EI kickoff, has been given the “all-clear” and will be played as expected with no delays.

“Out of an abundance of caution we are notifying fans and the public of the threat that was received, so that they can make their own choices about personal safety and their attendance at today’s game,” said David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business, in a statement. “Our first obligation is to the safety of the public and, while police and safety officials have given an all-clear for today’s game, we wanted to ensure that visitors were aware of this decision.”

The release added that, “[a]s is typical for home football games, increased security measures are in place and police are on heightened alert.”

T. Boone Pickens issues statement to ‘clear air’ on comments regarding Mike Gundy

STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 17 :  The scoreboard near the end of the game September 17, 2016 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma State defeated Pitt 45-38. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The relationship — or lack thereof — between Oklahoma State’s biggest financial booster and its head football coach is once again in the news.

Earlier this week, billionaire T. Boone Pickens offered an “update” on his rocky relationship with Mike Gundy, saying he doesn’t “have any conversations” with the head coach.  The business magnate also decided to take a shot at Gundy’ personality.

“I don’t know, but Mike doesn’t handle people relationships very well. And he gets mad about things,” Pickens said Tuesday. “I’ve heard he’s written some notes about me that weren’t very complimentary.”

The comments made news and remained in the headlines for the rest of the week, enough so that Pickens decided he needed to issue a statement on game day to “clear [the] air” on the situation.  In the statement, Pickens describes himself as “88 years old… [with] competitive spirits [that] have not diminished.” Pickens, who reminded everyone again that he recommended Gundy for the job, further clarified the current status of his relationship with the coach, stating that “I have not placed a call to Mike Gundy in years.”

“It’s his program to run, not mine,” wrote the man whose name adorns the Cowboys’ football home.

Pickens went on to say that he does “not intend to talk about our relationship publicly going forward.”  Why Pickens decided to make his “final” statement on the day of a huge Big 12 matchup with Texas — less than two hours before kickoff at that — is a question that many OSU fans — and school officials — will be asking themselves for quite a while.

Leonard Fournette reportedly ‘very doubtful’ for LSU vs. Mizzou

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 3:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs with the ball in the third quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Earlier this week, interim LSU head coach Ed Orgeron labeled Leonard Fournette as a “game-day decision.”  With game day upon us, the decision doesn’t appear to be a positive one for the Tigers.

While there’s been no official word from the football program, Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com is reporting that the star running back is “very doubtful”for today’s game against Missouri because of a lingering ankle issue.

The All-American initially injured the ankle during a mid-August summer camp practice; then aggravated it against Wisconsin in the opener; sat out the Week 2 game against an FCS foe; and then aggravated it again in Week 4 against Auburn.

After leading the country in yards per game last season with nearly 163 yards per game, Fournette is currently 10th at 128.7. That total still tops the SEC.

With Fournette sidelined, the running-game burden will likely fall on the legs of Derrius Guice.  The sophomore is currently second behind Fournette with 239 yards, and leads the team with an 8.2 yards per carry average on his 29 attempts.

Checking in on the nation’s longest winning & losing streaks

Alabama's head coach Saban instructs his players as they take on the LSU Tigers during their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Unbelievably, at the end of today, we’ll be more than one-third of the way through the 2016 regular season as the calendar flips from September to October. And, not surprisingly, some teams are faring better than others — and some, suffice to say, are not.

In “water’s wet, sky’s blue” news, defending national champions and undefeated top-ranked Alabama holds the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 in a row. ‘Bama’s last loss came Sept. 19 a year ago against Ole Miss. In fact, the Tide hasn’t really come close to seeing that streak end since as just two of their last 16 games have been decided by 10-plus points, with the lone exceptions being a 19-14 win over Tennessee in October of last year and 43-37 over Ole Miss just two weeks ago.

What might surprise you, though, is the second-longest streak behind ‘Bama. The holder of that honor? San Diego State, which has peeled off 13 wins in a row entering Week 5. Tennessee is the only other team in double digits, with 10 wins in a row dating back to last season.  The Vols’ last loss?  To the Tide, of course, a defeat that UT will get to avenge two weeks from today in the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium.

A total of nine teams will also take the field Saturday with a winning streak of at least five in a row:

7 — Houston, Washington
6 — Louisville, Utah, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
5 — Boise State, Navy, Ohio State

Clemson could join some combination of the above at that five-game winning-streak plateau Saturday, but to get there they’ll have to beat… Louisville.

On the other side of the won-loss ledger, the “proud” owner of the nation’s longest losing streak entering the 2016 season was Kansas* at 15 straight, followed by UCF (13), Charlotte (10), Eastern Michigan (10), Oregon State (nine) and Boston College (eight).

All six of those teams have seen those losing streaks come to a merciful end, with EMU actually off to a 3-1 start to the year. The team that was just behind BC, Wake Forest, carried a six-game losing streak into 2016 before surprisingly (stunningly?) winning their first four games of the season.

So, with all of that winning from last year’s biggest losers, who’s the current “top” loser? That title now belongs to the Northern Illinois Huskies, the winners of the last six MAC West championships — and three of the last six conference titles — who have started this season with four straight losses to stretch their ignominious streak to a nation’s best/worst seven in a row. Just three other teams have a streak that began during the 2015 season: Florida International, which has lost six in a row and already fired their head coach; Arkansas State, which lost its first four of this season to push its streak to five in a row; and Georgia State, 0-3 on the season to add to a loss in the 2015 Cure Bowl for a four-game losing streak.

Two additional teams are winless on the season after winning their last game of 2015: Miami of Ohio and Rice, which are each 0-4 in 2016.

(*While Kansas’ overall losing streak came to an end, they’ve still lost 17 in a row against FBS opponents, with the last one of those coming in early November of 2015 against Iowa State.)