Tomorrow is a huge matchup for ACC rivals Florida State and Clemson. What was once a huge nail bitter between two dominant schools for the better part of the past decade is now considered by most, as a guaranteed win for the Tigers.
Clemson has won four straight meetings with the most recent being 59-10 blowout in last year in Doak Campbell Stadium. Many are predicting a similar outcome as Noles are currently sitting as a 27-point underdog.
However, FSU’s has shown continued improvement week by week so far this season, and have grown a good bit from the team that blew a 23 point lead to Boise State. So this matchup has the potential to be more completive than beloved during the first few weeks on play this year.
Both teams coming off of their bye week, which is probably more beneficial for FSU, who have had two weeks of practice to prepare for their biggest competition of the season. The Noles are coming off of 2 solid wins and have some good momentum going both on offense and even more so on defense.
The biggest factors paying into the growth of FSU…first year offensive coordinator Kendal Briles maximizing his offensive talent as well recently acquired defensive analyst Jim Leavitt getting the defense to play more competently while committing less penalties.
James Blackman was announced as starter earlier this week though its likely we’ll see Alex Hornibrook get a fair share of playing time. The graduate transfer from Wisconsin has proven to keep his composer under pressure while being shiftier behind the spotty O line. However, Blackman has the stronger arm and the ability to make bigger plays. Briles and Taggart will probably sub them situationally throughout the game given the offensive needs and to keep Clemson’s solid defensive front on their toes.
Third year RB and often times lone bright spot on offense, Cam Akers will be an obvious weapon for FSU, but so far this season Clemson has held almost every star RB below their average yards per carry. FSU’s O-line, while improving, is no where near elite but they will have to create holes for Akers to allow him to dominate like he’s been doing all season to give Florida State a fighting chance. Right now, Akers ranks in the top 15 nationally with 138 all-purpose yards per game, 582 rushing yards, 9 and total touchdowns.
Even more importantly, the Seminole O-Line has got to find a way to protect their QB for the entirety of the game. Unfortunately for the Noles, Clemson has a great pash rush, and FSU has been allowing almost four sacks a game. However, the O-Line could get a slight boost this week if starting LT Jauan Williams returns from an ankle injury, but Clemson’s depth up front will challenge FSU’s line for the entirety of the contest.
Slightly in FSU’s favor is that Trevor Lawrence has been in a bit of a slump compared to his freshman year performance, but FSU’s secondary hasn’t been great at defending the pass generally this season, though they did show a lot of improvement against NC state. With Janarius Robinson out for the first half, the Noles will have to find a way to replace the pressure he’s been putting on their opponent’s QBs.
I believe there is a way for FSU to keep it interesting if they can pull their weapons together. They have the talent to compete with the tigers, but will it be utilized properly? It’s likely that this game will still be a mark in the Tiger’s win column, but it doesn’t have to resemble at all the 49 point blowout that occurred in Tallahassee a year ago.
Fortunately for FSU head coach Willie Taggart,he’s heading into this game with some more breathing room, as many have already written it off as a loss before the season even began. Unlike the high stakes and backlash that came with the Boise State and Virginia losses, and even more so from the near loss to ULM, Taggart will be under significantly less pressure on Saturday being the obvious underdog. This could be the game where we see him pull out some of the trick plays he was so known for during his time in Tampa with USF.
In his press conference earlier this week, there was a noticeable energy to him when talking about the opportunity that his team is presented with on Saturday.
“Really excited…Another opportunity to get on the field and compete, and not only get to compete, we get to compete against the defending national champions this week. Go to their place, and (it’s) one unbelievable opportunity for our football team. I know our guys are practicing hard, practicing well, and getting ready to take on a great challenge.”
He concluded with “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man. Clemson is the man, and again, we understand the challenge but we look forward to it.”
A challenge only a handful of teams get the opportunity to do… to go against the reigning national champion in their house.
Report- FSU hires Memphis coach Mike Norvell
The Memphis Tigers secured the American Conference Championship with a dramatic 29 – 24 win over Cincinnati Saturday night, and has been rumored, FSU is securing the Tigers head coach.
Multiple media reports said Saturday night that FSU will name the Memphis head coach, Mike Norvell, to the same position Sunday at a news conference on campus in Tallahassee. The Tallahassee Democrat reported as fact, that Norvell had been hired, but didn’t site a source:
— Wayne McGahee III (@WayneMcGaheeIII) December 8, 2019
FSU told the media Saturday evening that the press conference will be at noon eastern time, which will also be at the same time that the College Football Playoff rankings show will be taking place on ESPN.
And while Norville’s Tigers won’t be in the College Football Playoff, they will be the highest ranked team in the “Group of Five” bowl category, and that means they will be headed to the Cotton Bowl.
However, that will likely be without their head coach of the last four seasons. Norvell took over as a first-time head coach in Memphis in 2016 after having spent the previous four seasons, as offensive coordinator at Arizona State.
Memphis won 8 games his first season and then 10 games in his second year. Now, they have just completed the best season in program history at 12 – 1, with that lone loss coming at Temple in October. The Tigers beat the East Division AAC champ, Cincinnati, in each of the last two weeks.
The Tigers won dramatically on Saturday afternoon (above) by scoring with just over a minute left in the game. That’s when quarterback Brady White hit wide receiver Antonio Gibson with a 6-yard touchdown and the 29-24 lead. The Tigers missed the two point play and the Bearcats still had life to win the game.
But, Memphis’ defense then held Cincinnati on downs after the Bearcats drove in the final :30 within their 25-yard line.
Norvell is expected to receive a good-sized pay raise from the $2.6 million contract he agreed to with Memphis after the 2018 season.
FSU fired coach Willie Taggart on November 3rd after a humiliating loss the day before to Miami. Florida State sufferd their first losing season in over forty years during Taggart’s first campaign in 2018 and were on track to potentially have a second straight losing season, when he was fired.
Interim coach Odell Haggins led them to a win at Boston College and at home over FCS Alabama State making Florida State bowl eligible.
It is unclear whether Norvell will stay behind and coach Memphis in the biggest bowl game in program history, or if that will go to an interim coach instead.
Why hasn’t Florida State named their new coach?
Why hasn’t Florida State announced the hire of a new head football coach? It is a legitimate question to ask as Conference Championship Weekend approaches.
The early signing period comes closer, and the Seminoles know they need to nail down recruits to give themselves a fighting chance in 2020 and, more realistically, 2021. The more this head coaching search drags out – now that we are in December – the worse it looks for Florida State.
Moreover, the whole point (or at least the main point) of firing Willie Taggart a few weeks before the end of the regular season was precisely to get a head start on the head coaching search and find the right man for the right price in a precarious time for Seminole football.
If Florida State doesn’t have a coach firmly secured by Sunday morning – before the College Football Playoff teams and New Year’s Six bowl assignments are announced – it will be buried in the news cycle. Announcing a hire late Sunday night or early Monday morning won’t create the same splash and will certainly come across as being “late” in a meaningful sense. FSU won’t get the maximum amount of attention and publicity it needs.
The clock really is ticking. Yes, it is better to be late than to settle for a terrible hire. Florida State (and any other school in its position) is better served by getting the right coach late in a carousel cycle than to be stuck with the wrong man and making the hire “on time,” before Sunday afternoon.
We can all understand the bigger picture, though: Florida State, a program of great stature and significance, should be able to get a good hire AND be on time. The Seminoles ought to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
The conventional wisdom – or at least, one of several prevailing thoughts if there isn’t majority agreement on this point – is that Florida State will wait until after Saturday’s AAC Championship Game between Cincinnati and Memphis to announce the hire of Memphis coach Mike Norvell.
If this IS in fact the case (we’ll see, one way or the other), Florida State will have gotten one of the better options in the coaching carousel. Norvell’s (above) name has been thrown about for a long time at Power Five schools. His arrival would certainly offer the promise of an elite offense (and strong quarterback development) returning to Tallahassee.
It wouldn’t be a home-run, but it would be viewed as a reasonably good hire under complicated circumstances, a move which could certainly work if Norvell plays his cards right.
The bigger question – and potential problem – for FSU is if a Norvell deal has NOT been lined up, and if the program is scrambling. Then we’re in a different landscape with a lot more uncertainty.
We talk about this larger topic at this time every year: In a coaching search, there is always a prime target. If that target is secured (in this case Norvell), great.
If not, are you – as an athletic director – ready with your Plan B? Is Dave Coburn, armed with his search firm, ready?
We’re about to find out if FSU has its Plan A firmly secured, or if the school has its Plan B ready to go before the College Football Playoff announcement.
Or, if FSU has botched this hire completely by letting others who started later get coaches out from under them.