Last season, Clemson freshman WR Sammy Watkins stole the show in the 35-30 upset of Florida State. With Watkins commanding so much attention, it will be senior RB Andre Ellington that carries Clemson to another upset win Saturday.
Watkins has been the focal point of FSU’s game-planning this week―with good reason. He had seven receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns last season. The Seminoles can't let that happen again.
"He's just a phenomenal player," Fisher said (Via Orange and White.com). "The most impactful freshman, maybe since Herschel Walker," Fisher added, comparing Watkins to the former Georgia star. "Sammy made that kind of impact the day that he came in."
The FSU coaching staff also realizes the impact the dynamic receiver has on the rest of the offense. Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops knows he can’t key on Watkins because of Clemson’s other weapons (Via Yahoo.com).
Among those other weapons are QB Tajh Boyd, WR DeAndre Hopkins and RB Andre Ellington. With so much emphasis being put on the Clemson passing attack, it will be Ellington who steals the show Saturday.
Ellington is the ACC’s leading rusher, averaging 109 yards per game. More impressive, 199 of his 328 rushing yards have come after contact.
The senior RB had a monstrous game against Auburn in the season opener, running for 228 yards on 25 attempts. He was used sparingly against Furman and Ball State (28 combined carries), but still managed to score four touchdowns.
Ellington goes up against a very talented FSU front. Florida State is currently the top defense in the FBS, giving up 1.91 yards per play. That front is even better against the rush, giving up 1.19 YPP.
The 5’9” senior averages 6.2 yards per carry this season. The Clemson rushing offense is 30th in the country at 219.33 rushing YPG.
Ellington has faced FSU twice in his career. Last season, he went for 71 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. As a freshman, he went 54 yards on six carries with a score.
Despite Clemson being underdogs, Ellington has never lost to FSU. In 2009, Clemson knocked off FSU 40-24. Last season, the Tigers won 35-30. The Tigers dropped a 16-13 contest in 2010 without him.
To go 3-0 against the Seminoles is no easy task, he has a chance to accomplish that feat Saturday.
With the second-highest scoring offense in the country in Tallahassee, Clemson will need to control the clock and keep the ball out of senior QB E.J. Manuel’s hands. That puts pressure on Ellington to perform at his usual pace.
Clemson’s star RB hasn’t gone under the radar of the FSU linebackers, according to David Hale of ESPN.com.
"He’s really elusive, he’s really fast," FSU senior linebacker Vince Williams said. "He reminds me of a slightly bigger Chris [Thompson]. He can do some things. I like him."
"He's a good back, but we're going to play hard," Florida State junior linebacker Telvin Smith said. "That's one thing we really try to key on is the run, so we're going to play hard and see what happens."
According to the Associated Press preview, FSU is a 14.5-point favorite. The Seminoles boast the nation’s best defense and second-best offense. They have blown out their opponents 176-3 this season―an impressive number.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney understands why FSU is favored so heavily against his Tigers and said he would pick FSU if he were a casual fan (Via the Washington Post). Swinney is confident in his team exceeding expectations (via Yahoo.com).
''Listen, the last three years we've never been picked to win the division let alone the conference, and we have won it two out of three years,'' Swinney said. ''So our guys are confident. They know who they are. We don't worry about what other people think.''
He’s not the only one on the coaching staff that has confidence in the Tigers. Offensive coordinator Chad believes in his team, even if no one else will (via Yahoo.com).
''No one outside of this building is going to pick us to win so that's great,'' Morris said. ''We've been in ballgames before where no one picks us to win.''
The efficiency of the Clemson offense will rest squarely on the shoulders of Ellington’s effectiveness. It’s a tall task against the stingy FSU defense, but with all eyes on the passing game, Clemson’s running game could steal the show Saturday night.