Sept. 23, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Last week was all about answers. This week is all about questions.
Leading up to last Saturday's showdown with Oklahoma, the buzz surrounding the Florida State football team revolved around the Seminoles' impending performance against college football's top team.
The game against the Sooners was going to give everyone an answer to the question, "How does FSU stack up against the nation's best?"
The answer, of course, ultimately proved to be a positive one. The 'Noles showed that they could hang with No. 1 Oklahoma thanks primarily to what may be one of college football's best defenses.
The Seminoles emerged from that ballgame a team with high hopes for the future -- albeit with a loss. They also emerged with quite a few bumps and bruises as a result of their battle on Bobby Bowden Field.
It's FSU's injury concerns heading into Saturday's ACC-opener at Clemson that has dictated the theme of this week's build-up. There are real questions about the 'Noles' health and that's why the Tigers are favored on their home turf.
"We have a great challenge ahead of us getting back on our feet this week to go play a great Clemson team on the road," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said.
No injury is bigger than the one to starting quarterback EJ Manuel, who has not been able to fully participate this week while resting his sore shoulder. Whether or not Manuel plays while in South Carolina will likely be a decision made by Fisher just prior to kick off.
Acting in Manuel's absence at practice this week has been redshirt freshman Clint Trickett, who could be forced to start the first game of his career in what is one of the most hostile environments in the country in Death Valley. Trickett has taken all first-team snaps at practice this week in preparation.
"Clint, he just makes very good decisions," redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Cameron Erving said this week. "He's a smart quarterback. Coach Fisher has a lot of confidence in him ... as you see the plays that he calls when Clint is in there."
If the offense won't change that much should Trickett get the starting nod, that means FSU's few remaining healthy wide receivers must be ready to have their numbers called.
Like Manuel, the statuses of Bert Reed and Kenny Shaw have not been determined yet but both did practice on Thursday. Willie Haulstead has still not been cleared to play this season and won't be available. Budding go-to receiver Jarred Haggins broke his hand against Oklahoma and is out for at least the next month.
If Trickett does get moved from the bullpen and into a starter's role, an improved running game could prove critical to his success. FSU is averaging just 96.3 yards per game running the football and a paltry 3.2 yards per rush through three games.
Defensively, the Seminoles proved talented enough to handle Oklahoma's ballyhooed offensive attack and they must do the same against the Tigers.
Clemson welcomes FSU to Memorial Stadium with an offense that is one of the nation's best. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has made an early name for himself, running back Andre Ellington is a flash out of the backfield and Sammy Watkins may be the top offensive freshman in the country.
"They are no-huddle, fast-paced, multi-formational, have great players, well-coached," Fisher said, rattling off Clemson's strong suits on offense. "They can throw it; they can run it. The quarterback can run it. There are as many challenges there as there is anywhere. They do a super, super job."
So, too, does FSU's defense.
The Seminoles held the Sooners to their lowest output since 2009 and now rank fifth in the entire nation in total defense at just 195 yards per game.
Saturday's game is slated for a 3:30 p.m. start-time live on ESPN and on ESPN3.com with Brad Nessler (play-by-play) and Todd Blackledge (analysis) on the call.
Stay tuned to Seminoles.com for video and written content from the FSU Road Warriors leading up to the game. Once the contest kicks off, join the live chat and interact with other fans as we deliver insider information and thoughts from the press box. We will then have postgame reactions, video and the official recap after the final whistle is blown.