You can make a case for many top games in Week 4 of the college football season, but there may not be a more meaningful game than Clemson-Florida State. Both enter the matchup as Top 10 teams and not only have their eyes set on an ACC Championship, but a BCS bowl as well.
Clemson is the high-scoring offensive team that won the ACC last season, while Florida State is the strong-minded defensive team that is looking to get back into the college football spotlight. This is a meeting that will certainly tell us a lot about both teams, but will also give us a better idea of which club is a better fit for making a true run towards a BCS National Championship.
With the big matchup inching closer, let's break these two programs down and see who the real ACC contender is in 2012.
Tajh Boyd is often the forgotten man in this offense, as he did throw for over 3,800 yards last season and was responsible for 38 total touchdowns. This season, he has improved his completion percentage to 73 percent and seems to be making better decisions with the football. With over 700 passing yards and six touchdowns in the first three games, Boyd looks to continue to build on last year’s success.
E.J. Manuel is surprisingly completing 71 percent of his passes through the first three games on just 59 passing attempts. In just a sample size of playing time, he is doing a good job of taking care of the football and has generated 14 plays of 15 yards or more. We have yet to see him face an actual decent defense, but it appears that the senior quarterback could end up having his best season yet.
Edge: Florida State (For more information on the quarterback battle, click here)
This Clemson team is known for its explosive offense, as it averaged 33 points and 440 yards last season. Despite Tajh Boyd's numbers, Clemson also has two terrific wide receivers in Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins.
Running back Andre Ellington, who returned for his senior season, is averaging over six yards a carry and has scored four touchdowns. The Tigers offense is converting 50 percent of their third downs, which is remarkable.
Overall, this is an offense that is capable of scoring with anybody in the country and is without question the best in the ACC.
The Seminoles are averaging over 500 yards of total offense at the moment, but that is expected when you play teams such as Murray State and Savannah State. Running back Chris Thompson has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 14 yards a carry and scoring three touchdowns. The receiving corps is experienced as the top four receivers have a combined 10 years of playing time.
However, due to the lack of talent Florida State has played early on, it is really hard to grade this offense. This unit was certainly not lighting any scoreboards up last season, which makes you wonder just how far it has come in one year.
Clemson was often criticized last season for a lack of defensive effort and it seems to be a problem that has carried over to this year. The Tigers are currently ranked seventh in the ACC, allowing a total of 368 yards a game. The front seven is generating very little pressure up front on opposing quarterbacks and has already allowed a total of eight plays over 30 yards.
The good news is that the defense is holding opponents under 22 percent on third downs and has averaged two turnovers a game.
Florida State is incredible on the defensive side of the ball. The Seminoles are allowing just 103 yards a game this season, have picked up 26 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and are allowing a first down on third down less than 12 percent of the time. This unit simply gets after it, has multiple people on the ball carrier and makes offenses earn every little thing that they try to get.
We could make a case for the lack of opponents Florida State has played this season, but this is what we expected from the Seminoles defensively. This team is the real deal on the defensive side of the ball.
Edge: Florida State
Despite taking a trip to Tallahassee, Clemson will have two more true tests it will have to get by. Games against Virginia Tech and South Carolina at the end of the year won't be easy, but the good thing is that both of those games will be played in Clemson. The Tigers also can't afford to overlook Georgia Tech, a team that has won seven of the last nine against Clemson.
Overall, this may be the toughest game on the schedule for this team, but it certainly won't be the only difficult game in 2012.
Other than this game, Florida State will also have to travel to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. But with the Hokies recent struggles against Pittsburgh, it makes you wonder if Frank Beamer's club is the real deal this season. The other tough task will come against Florida, as the Gators seem to be getting better by the week. Despite the Seminoles winning the last two meetings, they did lose six straight before that.
Overlooking a trip to Miami would also be foolish, as 11 of the last 13 meetings with the Hurricanes have been decided by single digits.
Edge: Florida State
Although we have yet to see Florida State actually play anybody, the Seminoles have to be considered the best team in the ACC and a true championship contender. The defense is SEC caliber and the offense is led by a senior quarterback who seems to finally be tapping into his potential.
Clemson is terrific offensively, but the defense is such a big question mark that you aren't sure if it will be enough to survive the rest of the way. Surrendering over 360 total yards and not being able to pressure the quarterback is not a recipe for BCS success.
The only way a non-SEC team is going to win a national championship is if they play stifling defense and have success running the football. As of right now, Florida State is one of the few teams that have showed that formula early on, and it is the reason why the Seminoles should not only win this weekend’s matchup in Tallahassee, but also compete for this year’s BCS National Championship.