Florida State vs. Clemson Preview: Why the Tigers Will Win

In Part I of Our Extended FSU-Clemson Preview, We Explain Why Clemson Will Win

In Part I of Our Extended FSU-Clemson Preview, We Explain Why Clemson Will Win

(Ed Note:) Saturday’s matchup between Florida State and Clemson is obviously a big deal. And since this is an ACC blog, it only makes sense that we discuss the game as much as possible. We’ve done so all week, but now it’s almost game day, and that means in-depth previews. I gave my short thoughts yesterday, but we want to dive in further. To help, I enlisted the assistance of none other than fellow ACC afficionado Hokie Mark — whom you know from his contributions here as well as his own site, ACCFootballRx. In this battle of ACC powers, he’ll be arguing in favor of Clemson, while I’ll present the reasons why Florida State should emerge victorious. Enjoy!


This is the week: the Game of the Century (at least for the ACC). Florida State vs. Clemson. The winner likely takes the Atlantic Division, probably the ACC, maybe even a shot at the BCS title. To say this game is huge is an understatement!

Yes, I know that Florida State is the Las Vegas favorite, and yes, I’m aware that some of the computer models like CFBTN and others are also picking the ‘Noles. I’m still going to pick the Tigers, and I’ll tell you why…

First, Clemson is at home. In the recent history of this series, the home teams are 6-0. In fact, FSU has not won in Clemson since 2001 — 12 years ago. Quite honestly, the Seminoles are a different team on the road. At home the ‘Noles win by an average score of 41-11, but on the road, the margin drops to 32-22. Meanwhile, the Tigers have only lost one home game in two-and-a-half seasons (South Carolina). Advantage: Clemson.

Another factor is big game experience at quarterback. Tiger QB Tajh Boyd has been in some real battles over the years: Auburn (2011, 2012), Virginia Tech (2011, twice), LSU (2012), Georgia (2013) — not to mention this is Boyd’s third FSU game as starting QB. By contrast, Jameis Winston‘s toughest road game of his career was probably the game at Boston College; the most hostile environment Winston has played in so far? Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Advantage: Clemson.

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Syracuse Can Still Win the Big East… Here’s How

Syracuse, Once Left for Dead in the Big East Race, Could Claim a Share of the Conference Title This Week

First of all, congratulations to the Syracuse Orange football team for finishing the regular season 7-5 (5-2 Big East). Given the rocky start, that’s a very strong finish indeed!

Now, the IDEAL scenario for this season would be for Syracuse to win the Big East and bring the hardware with them to the ACC next season. On the other hand, it would be another black eye for the ACC if Rutgers were to go home with the Big East trophy (just how many eyes does the ACC have, anyway?). If Louisville wins it, that may still work out pretty well for the ACC (wink wink).

Back to Syracuse: for them to even have an outside shot at the Big East title, the Orange needed two things to happen this weekend: (1) Pittsburgh had to beat Rutgers, and (2) Connecticut had to defeat Louisville. Both of those things happened! So now what? And how can Syracuse win it when their season is over, you ask?

The regular season may be done for the Orange, but Louisville and Rutgers still have a game against each other. and that’s where the possibilities get pretty interesting. You see, at the moment these are the standings atop the conference:

  1. Rutgers 9-2 (5-1)
  2. Louisville 9-2 (4-2)
  3. Syracuse 7-5 (5-2)
  4. Cincinnati 8-3 (4-2)

That sets up a final game between Louisville and Rutgers for the Big East conference championship — but it’s not winner-take-all. Now bear with me for a minute. If Louisville beats Rutgers in the finale, both teams would finish 5-2 in conference — the same record as Syracuse already has. It would be a three-way tie. If Cincinnati also beats UConn, they too would be 5-2 in conference, making it a four-way tie for first place.

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Conference Realignment: Examining the Effects on Teams After the Move (Part 2)

How Will Syracuse and Pittsburgh Fare Once They Move to the ACC in 2013?

Yesterday we looked at teams who have recently switched conferences to see how well they have fared. We determined that the “big boys” like Nebraska and Texas A&M have done just fine. But some of the other schools who have made “lateral” moves — Colorado, Missouri — have had some difficulty adjusting. Finally, the teams which have “moved up” in competition — West Virginia from the Big East and former “mid-major” teams like Utah and TCU — have struggled with the grind of their new “power conference” schedules.

So, what can Pittsburgh and Syracuse expect next year when they move to the ACC? I don’t think anyone would suggest that the ACC is as big a step up for them as the Big 12 was for West Virginia, but will they expect to struggle for awhile?

To get an idea what to expect, let’s look at the last time a Big East team joined the ACC. In fact, let’s look at the last three, since they all switched in a two-year period: Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College.

Oddly enough, VaTech actually performed better after the move. Looking at the seasons just prior to the move, it seems to me that the Hokies were simply in a down year their last season in the Big East. By contrast, Miami declined by one win in-conference and by two wins overall that same year.

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Conference Realignment: Examining the Effects on Teams After the Move (Part 1)

Texas A&M’s Fared Pretty Nicely Since Moving From the Big 12 to the SEC, But Has Every Program Made Out As Well?

There was lots of discussion this spring about teams jumping conferences… Lots of discussion! TCU and West Virginia actually did make the move to the Big 12, and there were rumors about Florida State and Clemson jumping ship as well. But for those who actually changed conferences, was it the right move? From a broader view, how has it worked out in general for teams which have changed conferences in recent years? Can even the best “mid-major” teams survive the so-called “grind” of a major conference schedule?

In the distant past (i.e. before 1990), when a team changed conferences it was generally to join one which was a better academic or geographic fit. Think Georgia Tech leaving the SEC to eventually join the ACC (via independence), or South Carolina doing the reverse. Today it’s a different story. Money generated by athletics has grown to the point where a school will actually consider joining a conference which is further away in order to grab yet more money. Imagine that – major universities motivated by money!

So we’ve seen several teams shift to/from major conferences in the past couple years:

  • Nebraska: from Big 12 to Big Ten
  • Utah: from Mountain West to Pac-12
  • Colorado: from Big 12 to Pac-12
  • Texas A&M: from Big 12 to SEC
  • Missouri: from Big 12 to SEC
  • TCU: from Mountain West (by way of Big East) to Big 12
  • West Virginia: from Big East to Big 12

Obviously there’s a pattern here, as one conference (Big 12) has been involved in the majority of these moves. But I digress…

How did these teams fare after the conference changes, though? To answer that, let’s look at before & after win/loss numbers in-conference and overall:

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BCS Rankings: A Closer Look at Strength of Schedule, Part II

The Florida Gators are One of Several Teams Whose Strength of Schedule Provides a Big BCS Advantage

In part one, we looked at the undefeated and one-loss BCS conference football teams and compared the win percentages of their opponents so far to estimate strength of schedule. However, we came up with some results that just didn’t look right. I mean, Texas Tech at no. 1, Oklahoma at no. 5 — ahead of both Alabama and Oregon. What’s wrong here?

If you looked carefully, you may have detected the problem already — we are giving Texas Tech and Oklahoma credit for opponents they lost to! Why should the Red Raiders be able to count Oklahoma’s five wins if they weren’t able to beat the Sooners head-to-head? Why should the Sooners take credit for Kansas State‘s 7-0 record?

So we need another table, this time only showing winning percentage of the opponents each teams actually beat.

That’s better; at least an unbeaten team (Florida) is back on top, though the pesky Red Raiders are still hanging out in second place. Alabama and Oregon move in front of Oklahoma in this list as well, which is intuitive. Louisville remains at the bottom — the Cardinals haven’t lost, but they haven’t really beaten anybody either. Ohio State and Kansas State both move in front of Cincinnati, since the Bearcats are not allowed to count Toledo‘s seven wins.

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BCS Rankings: A Closer Look at Strength of Schedule, Part I

Mississippi State Has Cruised Along By Beating Inferior Opponents, But They’re Not Alone

Football is unique among college sports because the champion is decided as much by poll as by play on the field. Traditionally the college football polls give the greatest weight to two factors:

  1. How few games a team has lost, regardless of opponent
  2. How many games a team has won against quality opposition

I number them that way because history has clearly shown that is the order of priority – being undefeated carries the most weight with voters, as a general rule. While the BCS has toyed with the idea of rewarding quality wins, that is no longer officially part of the equation. Still, in recent years there has been some consideration given to one-loss teams (and occasionally even a two-loss team) if the schedule is strong enough (and there are no undefeated teams with comparable schedules).

So, the question becomes “who has a comparable schedule and who doesn’t?” Let’s start out trying to answer that question by looking at the teams with zero or one loss after week eight. We’ll also limit ourselves to only the BCS-AQ conferences (plus Notre Dame) for now.These are the teams you would normally expect to see at the top of the polls, and it’s not far off from what the BCS poll gives us. The order isn’t exactly the same – I’ve placed Ohio State at the top simply because they have the most wins without a loss. Another big difference is in the fact that some two-loss teams like South Carolina, Stanford, and West Virginia are allowed to remain in the top 20 in the BCS.

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What’s Wrong with the Virginia Tech Defense?

Unlike Past Seasons, Virginia Tech’s Defense Has Frequently Found Itself Out of Place in 2012

Returning Starters

If you read any of the preseason articles about Virginia Tech‘s 2012 football team, there was one thing that was stated over and over – the Hokies were returning almost everyone on defense, so it was conventional wisdom that the Hokie D should be even better than last year. That was a very seductive argument, which unfortunately ignores some basic facts.

For example, one writer pointed out that nine of the 11 starters were returning, which was technically true. However, when you look at the 2012 defense vs. 2011 position-by-position, you see a slightly different picture

Now you can see the rest of the story – while those 9 players may have returned, only 5 players started the season at the same position.

Another thing you have to look at it who did not return.

  • Tariq Edwards – still on the team, but underwent surgery to alleviate pain associated with a stress fracture in his shin during the offseason; he missed first three games and may not be 100-percent recovered even now.
  • Jayron Hosley – a star on last year’s defense, Hosley came out early, and is now a New York Giant in the NFL.
  • Eddie Whitley – provided senior leadership last year, and is now a Dallas Cowboy in the NFL.

The loss of Hosley in particular was a real blow to this defense, since his presence in the defensive backfield allowed the team to do some things in the front seven to compensate (honestly) for a lack of size in the defensive line.

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