Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/22/12

The Florida State Seminoles look to return atop the nations elite when they face off with the ninth ranked Clemson Tigers this Saturday in Doak Campbell stadium. The Noles looked very impressive in their win over a lowly Wake Forest team whom they lost to last year.

The Noles pitched a shut-out in route to scoring 52 points, and appeared to be a team who was ready to return to the nation’s elite.

To prove that last week was no fools gold, the Seminoles must beat an explosive tiger team led by freshman all-American Sammy Watkins. The Noles have a top-ranked defense and will look to contain the up-beat no huddle attack of Coach Dabo Swiney’s tigers.

In order for the Noles to beat a solid Clemson team, they must execute their game plan to perfection. This falls on the shoulders of the Noles senior quarterback E.J. Manuel.

What we know thus far:

Manuel looked very efficient throughout the majority of the first three games against less than stellar defenses. He has shown off a strong arm and crisp passing on multiple occasions, but has let a lot of passes sail off target to open receivers. During last weeks slaughter of Wake Forest, Manuel failed to connect on wide open corner routes for key yards and touchdowns.

What does E. J. Manuel bring?:

Manuel brings four seasons of rich experience being a starter and when healthy, flashes the ability to throw the long ball. He is currently surrounded with one of the deepest receiving corps in the nation; with 12 different players having caught at least two passes this year. Manuel is 12th in the nation in passing efficiency but must improve on his overall down-field passing accuracy to help the Noles offense achieve greatness. The senior signal caller is also an exceptional runner and makes a lot of plays with his legs. Although most consider him a dual-threat quarterback, he runs more than one would like due to the inconsistent play of his offensive line. Given proper time and a clean pocket, Manuel shows he can pick apart defenses with his decision making.

What to expect from the Clemson defense:  

The Clemson defense is very athletic along the front seven, but ranked 84th in the country in run defense.  The secondary is ranked 32nd nationally but has been primarily un-tested through the air this season.  Look for Clemson to send a multitude of blitzes against the Seminoles young offensive line as they attempt to fluster Manuel.

What must Manuel do?:

In order for the Seminoles to be successful, Manuel must keep the defense honest by completing his throws at crucial moments. The Noles can not afford to get off to a slow start versus the Tigers if they want to avoid a third loss to Clemson in four seasons.

Manuel must also run the read option wisely, which will neutralize edge rushers of the tigers and open passing lanes. Florida State’s stable of running backs ability to run ball will also help their senior leader's chances at making the big play. Attacking the Clemson defense early, completing intermediate throws and seizing the big play when presented will give the Seminoles the best chance at winning on Saturday night.

If Manuel fails to live up to his ability on Saturday night, the Clemson faithful will refer to the Seminoles as being “who they thought they were”. However if the veteran signal caller can showcase his blue chip ability, than the Seminoles can be whomever they want to be.

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