Jameis Winston missing entire game opens door for Clemson's defense
On Wednesday, No. 1 Florida State suspended quarterback Jameis Winston for the first half of Saturday's home game against No. 22 Clemson. Two days later, the 'Noles shockingly decided to alter that suspension. The school announced late Friday night that Winston would instead miss the entire game, which changes how both teams will approach this matchup.
Here are three thoughts on what Winston's suspension could mean for Saturday's game:
• It's Sean Maguire time -- for real
Maguire, a redshirt sophomore, became a national name only two days ago when it was announced that he would start against Clemson in place of Winston. But Florida State fans always knew Winston would be waiting to retake the reins in the second half. Now, Maguire must face the Tigers for a full 60 minutes.
The good news is, Florida State players aren't unfamiliar with Maguire. The quarterback has spent two years in coach Jimbo Fisher's system. He threw for more than 200 yards and one touchdown in the team's spring game, but he's hardly an experienced option under center. Maguire has attempted only 26 passes in his college career, and suddenly he'll be forced to step up in arguably the biggest game of Florida State's season.
Earlier this week, at least one Florida State player wasn't worried about Maguire directing the offense. Seminoles wide receiver Rashad Green told SI.com that Maguire stepping in for one half didn't mean the 'Noles were in danger of losing.
“My chemistry with [Maguire] is as good as with Jameis," Greene said. "We spend time with both of the quarterbacks in case situations like this happen. We’re ready for it. We won’t miss a beat.”
Can Maguire handle the pressure for all four quarters? If not, Clemson could survive its road trip.
• Clemson's last-minute adjustment could be crucial
Playing 60 minutes of Winston-free football can't be a bad thing for any defense. Still, Friday night's news probably throws much of Clemson's defensive game plan out the window.
Sure, Tigers' defensive coordinator Brent Venables has had 48 hours to process Winston's half-game suspension, but he always knew the quarterback would return to test his defense in the second half. Winston had his way with Clemson in Florida State's 51-14 win last year, throwing for 444 yards and compiling four total touchdowns. Given the way the Tigers' front seven was exposed in the team's opening loss to Georgia this season, Venables and his coaching staff still had plenty of reason to fear Winston.
If you think Clemson’s coaching staff spent a minute of preparation on Maguire before Wednesday, you’re kidding yourself. The Tigers’ defensive game plan drastically changed over the course of two days. Does Maguire have the talent to catch Venables and the Clemson defense off guard?
• Karlos Williams could turn this into a breakout performance
Vaunted defensive end Vic Beasley and the rest of Clemson's defensive line were exposed in the fourth quarter of the team's 45-21 loss at Georgia on Aug. 30. In that game, Bulldogs' running back Todd Gurley ripped through the Tigers for 198 yards (13.2 per carry) and three touchdowns. In all Clemson allowed 201 yards and 21 points in the fourth quarter alone.
Could Florida State senior running back Karlos Williams be the next rusher to embarrass the Tigers' front seven? Williams is a talented runner who recorded at least 100 rushing yards twice in backup duty last year. He also notched three two-touchdown games. But through two contests this season, WIlliams has yet to break out. He's managed just 132 total yards and one touchdown this year.
Williams should have the protection necessary to find open holes. After all, the 'Noles boast one of the country's best offensive lines, one that starts five seniors. If Williams can extend plays and help take pressure off Maguire, Florida State still has the talent on both sides of the ball to hold off Clemson in this game.