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    Friday, November 07, 2008

    Head To Head Matchup: Quarterbacks

    The starting QB for Clemson will be Cullen Harper who had some unkind words to say for Tommy Bowden after he left as head coach. Tommy Bowden had demoted him and said that freshman QB Willy Korn would be leading the Tigers. Things have changed since then. Harper was replaced by Willy Korn but has regained his hold on the job heading into Saturday’s game against the Noles. Willy Korn got hurt but is now back and it looks as if both may see playing time on Saturday.

    The 6-2/225 pound Harper led the ACC in passing efficiency in 2007. Harper who graduated in May has completed almost 62% of his passes and has thrown for 1,543 yards and 7 TDs. He also has 11 interceptions for the season. In the Tiger's last game against Clemson, Harper threw for 252 yards and 3 TDs but also had three picks. And don't look for Harper to tuck the ball and run. He has a negative 55 yards rushing for the season.

    Clemson is at the top of the ACC in passing offense averaging 216 yards a game and having 8 TDs through the air. They also have 13 interceptions which puts them tied with the most in the ACC along with Virginia and Miami. Harper is ranked third in the ACC in passing with 7 TDs and 11 interceptions. His interception number puts him at second most in the ACC in picks.

    Harper does have some gifted receivers to get the ball to against the Noles. Aaron Kelly, Jacoby Ford, and Tyler Grisham are ranked #9, #11, and #17 respectively in the ACC in receiving.

    On the year, Harper has been sacked 12 times. In fact, Clemson ranks second in the ACC in sacks allowed. Clemson has not been successful in converting third downs this season and in fact ar eat the bottom of the ACC having only converted 29.55% of their third downs. In the red zone, they are better as they are ranked #5 in the ACC as they score almost 85% of the time within the twenty.

    Backing up Harper is Willy Korn. The 6-2/215 pound freshman has seen limited play this season and has thrown for 185 yards and 1 TD along with one interception. He is only nineteen and you would have to question whether the Tigers will have a big role for him on Saturday given the game and the significance for the game for Clemson.

    One of the reasons for Clemson’s 4-4 start has been a rash of injuries, especially on the offensive lines. As a result, Clemson has started six different offensive line units in the first eight games. At times Clemson has started three red-shirt freshmen in the offfensive line at the same time, a first since 1943. Like the Noles, the offensive line will be tested on Saturday as it attempts to protect the QB and also open holes for their running backs.

    Defensive matchup
    : Needless to say, Harper and his offensive line will be facing a tough Nole defense. The Noles are at the top of the ACC in total defense allowing on average 260 yards a game. In passing defense, they are also ranked #1 allowing 153 passing yards a game and 8 TDs through the air. They also have 5 interceptions on the year which is the second lowest in the ACC.

    The Noles are ranked #3 in the ACC in sacks getting almost 3 sacks a game. They are also ranked #3 in tackles for a loss. The defense is ranked #1 in opponent third down conversions with an outstanding 18.81% conversion rate. This is almost double the next best team, Boston College.

    Defensive end Everette Brown is the sack leader for the Noles with six that puts him #3 in the ACC. Brown is also ranked #1 in the ACC in tackles for a loss along with linebacker Derek Nicholson who is #5 in the ACC. On scoring defense, FSU is ranked number three in the conference allowing only 18.4 points a game.

    In passes defended, the Noles are ranked #3 in the ACC. FSU's secondary has some capable players in Myron Rolle, Tony Carter, and Patrick Robinson but they have not been able to create turnovers on a regular basis. The Noles are next to last in the ACC in turnover margin.

    For the Noles, Christian Ponder will hopefully continue to improve in this his ninth game as a starter for the Noles. For the season, Ponder has thrown for 1,268 yards and 10 TDs. He also has 7 picks and has a 54.5% passing completion percentage. He is more than capable of running the ball and has indicated that he would like to run more than he has in the last several games.

    One of the keys in the game will be how well the offensive line will protect him against the Tigers. The Noles are ranked #6 in the ACC in sacks allowed having given up 10 for the season. They are ranked #8 in the ACC in tackles for a loss allowed . The offensive line will be one of the keys for the Noles in the game against Clemson on Saturday.

    Defensive matchup: The Nole offense will be facing a Clemson defense that is ranked #6 in the ACC in total defense allowing an average of 307 yards a game. The pass defense is ranked #4 and is allowing 175 yards a game and given up 8 TDs through the air and also made 8 interceptions.

    The defense is ranked #9 in the ACC in allowing third down conversions. The Clemson defense is also dead last in the ACC in sacks with only 7 for the year. In tackles for a loss, the Tigers rank #7 in the ACC. Clemson's defensive lineman Ricky Sapp is ranked #13 in the ACC in tackles for a loss. On scoring defense, Clemson is ranked number two in the conference allowing only 16.8 points a game.

    The Tigers like the Noles have not been able to create turnovers and are ranked last in the ACC in turnover margin. One of the keys to the game will be who can create some turnovers on Saturday.

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