CFT Predicts: Florida State-Clemson

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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

Penn State K Joey Julius no longer with the team

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Joey Julius was everyone’s favorite kickoff specialist last season. Sadly, he won’t be your favorite kickoff specialist in 2017.

At Big Ten media days on Monday, the Nittany Lions unveiled their 2017 roster and Julius was not on it.

Listed at 5-foot-10, 258 pounds, Julius announced in May he would seek treatment for an eating disorder.

“I have been struggling over the last couple months with my eating disorder,” he announced at the time. “It got to the point where I had to return to St. Louis to seek further treatment at the McCallum place. Recovery is a wonderful and beautiful thing that I am working on returning too.”

Julius handled 93 kickoffs for the 2016 Big Ten champions, averaging 62.1 yards per kick with 45 touchbacks. His kickoff average ranked 47th nationally, and his 48.4 touchback percentage was 40th in FBS. Julius made 10-of-12 field goals and 20-of-24 extra points in 2015 before ceding the job to Tyler Davis last season.

 

Urban Meyer on College Football Playoff loss to Clemson: That ship has sailed, it’s gone

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Ohio State may have won the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship, but its most recent trip to the postseason tournament was not nearly as much fun. The Buckeyes were blanked by eventual national champion Clemson, 31-0. Asked whether or not that plays into the mental approach to the upcoming 2017 season, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer suggested that loss is no longer thought about.

“That ship has sailed. It’s gone,” Meyer said. “Professionally, it changed how we do some business on offense, and we’re moving forward.”

Ohio State has added former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as offensive coordinator, with Meyer noting that Wilson is the first offensive coordinator to be brought into Meyer’s program as a head coach (all others have been promoted from within). Meyer acknowledged that more of the offensive management has been put in the hands of Wilson, which supports the thought that things have changed with the offense in 2017.

Ohio State is a heavy favorite among media members covering the Big Ten to win the conference this season, and the Buckeyes will likely be viewed as a playoff contender. Regardless, how last season ended has to leave an empty feeling that needs to be fulfilled this fall, whether Meyer wants to use it as fuel or not.

“It’s the back of everyone’s mind,” Meyer said. “Whether I use that in training camp or not is to be determined.”

Jim Delany announces Big Ten’s new six-year deal with ESPN and FOX; BTN heading to Hulu and YouTube

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As the Big Ten opened up its media day event in Chicago, commissioner Jim Delany brought with him an announcement regarding the future of the conference’s television package. Delany announced the Big Ten has reached a deal on a restructured television package with broadcast partners ESPN, FOX and CBS Sports (for basketball) and an extended deal with Big Ten Network that runs through 2032. And he had more to share a swell.

The exact terms of this new deal have not been disclosed at this time, but it would stand to reason the Big Ten will continue to turn a nice profit through their deals with both ESPN and FOX (and CBS Sports for basketball).

But Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman had some other news to share as well.

In addition to a new six-year contract with ESPN and FOX for regular season coverage of football (and FOX with the Big Ten Championship Game), Delany also announced the Big Ten Network will be heading to Hulu and YouTube TV, making the network more accessible to those consumers who continue to cut the cord on their TV providers. While there are still plenty of cable subscribers available to reach and the majority of TV viewers are still using cable to watch their TV, the trends are more and more leaning toward the cord-cutting methods.

Big Ten Network will be adding a handful of former Big Ten stars to its football coverage; James Laurinaitis, Braylon Edwards, and Corey Wootton. Big Ten Network, now in its 10th year of operation since launching as the first conference-branded network, will also be creating content for regional sports outlets, like an Ohio State show on SportsTime Ohio. The BTN will also work with ESPN to air a special series following new Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck and BTN’s Big Ten Elite program will chronicle the 2016 Big Ten champions, Penn State.

Report: Wisconsin and Notre Dame discussing Soldier Field series

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Notre Dame and Wisconsin have not met on the football field since 1964, but that drought in the series could come to an end in the somewhat near future. The Chicago Tribune reports the two schools are discussing plans for a potential football series that would be played in Chicago’s Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

Why Soldier Field? Why not?

Notre Dame last played in Soldier Field in 2012 when they played Miami as part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series of games traveling around the country. The Shamrock Series has also made stops in San Antonio, New York, Arlington, Indianapolis, and Boston. There is no Shamrock Series game in 2017, but it is expected to return in 2018 (playing Navy in San Diego). Notre Dame has never lost a game in Soldier Field. Wisconsin has also played in Soldier Field. In 2011, the Badgers dominated Northern Illinois.

Of course, the contrarian view here wonders why two programs with fantastic football environment s would want to abandon their locales in Madison and South Bend to play a game in Chicago. The obvious answers here are that it is easier to schedule one game on a neutral field and it tends to be more financially motivated to do so. Until an agreement is announced, it is just speculation to suggest both Notre Dame and Wisconsin will receive a nice paycheck out of playing in Soldier Field once or twice (or more).

Ideally, having Wisconsin and Notre Dame agree to a home-and-home deal would be the way to go, or a three-year deal with a home-and-home series and a neutral site game in Chicago. But we’ll just have to wait and see

Soldier Field hosted a 2015 Big Ten game between Northwestern and Illinois and the Illini are going to be hosting USF in Soldier Field in 2018.

From a Big Ten scheduling standpoint, a game against Notre Dame would satisfy Wisconsin’s non-conference scheduling requirement to include a game against another power conference program in whatever season or seasons the Irish appear on the schedule. Wisconsin currently satisfies that scheduling requirement in 2018 and 2020-2025. The non-conference schedule is full in 2019, meaning the Badgers need a road game against USF or a home game against Central Michigan or North Texas to be given approval from the Big Ten (or work out a deal to slide Notre Dame into that schedule. Notre Dame currently has a schedule vacancy on September 7, 2019, which is when Wisconsin is scheduled to play Central Michigan, but the Irish have a full 12-game schedule in place for the 2019 season.

The bottom line is whenever this scheduling arrangement is announced, it may not be happening until 2020 at the earliest.