I-A College Football News
Bowden Bowl IX set for Monday night
Aug 29, 2007, 15:28 GMT
Clemson, SC - Usually reserved for a few weeks into the season, the annual Bowden Bowl will conclude the first week of college football in 2007, as the 19th-ranked Florida State Seminoles and Clemson Tigers will meet up in Death Valley on Monday night.
The Seminoles finished 2006 with a winning record (7-6), but suffered their first-ever losing season in ACC play with a 3-5 finish. The conference mark was good for a disappointing fifth place in the Atlantic Division. Despite the poor season, FSU did take part in its 25th straight bowl game, defeating UCLA in the Emerald Bowl, 44-27. With the victory, Florida State was able to increase its streak of winning seasons to a whopping 30 straight.
Tommy Bowden would like nothing better that to put dear old dad in an early ACC hole this year. The Tigers are coming off a season in which they managed to go 8-5 overall, with a 5-3 mark in the Atlantic Division. Clemson took part in the Music City Bowl, but suffered a 28-20 setback to Kentucky.
This is the ninth Bowden Bowl and after Bobby Bowden dominated the matchups early on, it has been Tommy getting the better of it of late, winning three of the last four meetings, including last year's 27-20 decision in Tallahassee. Still, FSU holds a 15-5 edge in the all-time series.
Although the FSU offense must replace five starters, this unit should be able to improve in 2007. The team was able to put up 26.5 points per game in 2006, although it struggled on the ground to the tune of just 96.5 ypg. The passing attack was much better (233.8 ypg) thanks in large part to a pair of sophomores in QB Drew Weatherford and WR Greg Carr (6-6, 212). Weatherford completed 56.1 percent of his passes in 2006, for 2,154 yards and 12 TDs. Carr was a Second-Team All-ACC honoree and made the most of his 34 receptions, scoring 12 TDs. Joining Carr on the outside this season is senior De'Cody Fagg (37 receptions, for 439 yards and one TD) and junior Richard Goodman, who has yet to start a game in his career, but a superb spring has him running with the first-team offense. The ground game struggled last year, but junior tailback Antone Smith (456 yards) is a talented back with a great upside, after averaging 5.2 yards per carry in 2006. The offensive line returns three starters from last season, including reliable left guard Jacky Claude (6-4, 290), who has started 26 games over the last two seasons.
The FSU defense was much more consistent in 2006, finishing 18th nationally overall and ninth against the run. The team does lose a pair of outstanding linebackers in Lawrence Timmons (first-round draft choice) and Buster Davis (First-Team All-American), but eight starters do return. The strength is in the secondary, where junior cornerback Tony Carter and sophomore rover Myron Rolle lead the way. Carter finished with 27 total tackles last season with two interceptions. Rolle was a First-Team Freshman All-American last season, finishing with 77 tackles and one INT. Also back in the secondary is senior free safety Roger Williams (67 tackles, team-high four INTs). Junior Geno Hayes is the sole leftover in the linebacking corps and should build on a solid sophomore season (59 tackles, nine TFLs and three sacks). All-Ameircan candidate Andre Fluellen will anchor things up front in the middle. A Second- Team All-ACC selection in 2006, Fluellen (6-4, 285) finished with 28 tackles and eight TFLs.
The Tigers will rely heavily on the ground game in 2007, and with a full arsenal in the backfield it is no surprise. The team averaged 218 yards per game in 2006 (fifth nationally). Tailbacks James Davis (sophomore) and C.J. Spiller (freshman) were unstoppable at times and combined for over 2,100 yards rushing and 27 TDs on the ground. The pair scored 29 TDs in all, either tying or exceeding the offensive output of 34 percent of the teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (41 teams). There isn't much experience at the other positions. In all, seven starters are gone from a year ago. Junior QB Cullen Harper has played in just five games in his career, but he has earned the starting nod. A potential problem in terms of Harper's success this year, is an inexperienced offensive line, which must replace four of the five starters. However, All-ACC First-Teamer Barry Richardson is back. The 6-7, 330-pounder has started 32 consecutive games and is one of the nation's best tackles. The receiving corps is an unknown, with 6-5 junior Aaron Kelly (30 receptions in 2006) representing the best of the bunch.
Clemson had a strong 2006 on the defensive side of the ball as well, giving up a mere 280.8 yards per game, showing the ability to really stifle opposing passing games (177.7 ypg). Although seven starters return to this unit in 2007, the losses are severe. Up front, rush end Phillip Merling (46 tackles, three sacks) will have the large task of replacing All-American Gaines Adams (ACC Defensive Player of the Year) as the top pass rusher on the team. Sophomore end Ricky Sapp (6-4, 240) could surprise a lot of people as well. Veterans Antonio Clay, Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie bring stability to the linebacking unit, while DBs Chris Clemons and Michael Hamlin do the same in the secondary. Watkins led the team with 116 stops a year ago. Sophomores Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor should be able to step up as starters this year at the CB spots. Butler had three interceptions as a true freshman last season. Chancellor is a speedster with solid ball-hawking skills.
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