- David M. Hale, College football
Clemson's high-flying offense finally found some cracks in the armor of the Florida State defense, but the Seminoles' offense managed to step up and overcome an early deficit. That's reshuffled the FSU power rankings a bit, as Saturday's offensive stars push their way toward the top of the list. Last week's rankings in parentheses.
1. EJ Manuel, QB (9)
Manuel was exceptional in the first half, delivered the speech that got his team going in the second, finished the game by completing his final 11 passes, wound up with a career-best in passing yards (380) and rushing yards (102) and selflessly pulled up on what might have been another touchdown run in order to run out the clock. In other words, he has pushed his way into the Heisman discussion and the top of the FSU power rankings.
2. Bjoern Werner, DE (1)
From a statistical standpoint, it was a relatively quiet game for Werner, who finished with four tackles and no sacks. But he drew the bulk of the attention from the Clemson line, and that helped free things up for Tank Carradine on the other side of the line. Werner was active at the line of scrimmage, too, putting pressure on Tajh Boyd to flush him from the pocket and keeping good pursuit as Clemson repeatedly went to trick plays and misdirections.
3. Chris Thompson, RB (5)
It would have been impossible for Thompson to write a comeback story any better than the one he's enjoying. The senior posted his second straight 100-yard game, leading Florida State in both rushing and receiving -- and that doesn't include the 22-yard touchdown run he had called back because of a hold. Only Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas has run for more yards per carry than Thompson this season (10.82), and the FSU senior needs to average just 64 yards per game the rest of the way to become the school's first 1,000-yard rusher since 1996.
4. Lamarcus Joyner, S (2)
It speaks to Joyner's clout within the ACC that Clemson routinely attacked the opposite side of the field, despite a more favorable matchup of All-American Sammy Watkins going against FSU's inexperienced corners in Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby. But Joyner played well when the ball did go his way, and he added a 90-yard kickoff return that was the pivot point for the momentum turning in Florida State's direction.
5. Cornellius Carradine, DE (6)
Quick trivia: Who is Florida State's leading tackler through four games? That'd be Carradine, who has racked up 19 tackles, 6.5 for a loss, and 5.5 sacks. Carradine had FSU's only sacks of the game, coming on back-to-back plays that might have been a huge momentum swing had Rashad Greene not fumbled away the ensuing punt. Carradine continues to impress in taking over for injured Brandon Jenkins, and his numbers after four games rival those of the more heralded Werner.
6. Xavier Rhodes, CB (3)
Rhodes wasn't perfect against Clemson, but he won his share of battles despite a hefty workload. He finished with three tackles and a pass breakup, and the bulk of the big plays Clemson mustered in the passing game couldn't be blamed on Rhodes. He has been solid this season, and the tasks should get a bit easier from here.
7. Timmy Jernigan, DT (8)
Through Clemson's first seven drives of the game, the Tigers offense racked up 320 yards and 28 points. On their final seven drives, they mustered just nine points and 106 more yards -- 69 of which came on their last drive of the game, when FSU pretty much had it secured. The biggest difference was probably the push up the middle by the FSU defensive line in the second half, as the Clemson line wore down and Jernigan and Co. stepped up. Boyd was routinely flushed from the pocket, and he was just 2-of-10 passing when on the move. "I know when I'm tired, when I see the guy in front of me breathing harder, it's time to get them now," Jernigan said. "Once we see that, we're coming."
8. Rashad Greene, WR (4)
On the upside, Greene caught his first touchdown pass of the season, a 9-yarder that pulled FSU to within 3 in the third quarter. On the downside, Greene fumbled away a punt return for the second time this year, and had Manuel not been spectacular and the defense not clamped down late, that turnover might have been the difference in the game. Greene has had his share of highlights since taking over for Greg Reid as the team's primary punt returner, but he needs to become more consistent.
9. James Wilder Jr., RB (10)
Ho hum, another big second half and two more touchdowns for FSU's power back. Wilder had just 7 yards at the half, but he exploded for 58 more in the second, including a punishing 35-yard rumble that set up a his second touchdown of the day early in the fourth quarter. Devonta Freeman's role was dramatically reduced, likely due in part to the death of his brother earlier in the week, but Wilder has been the clear No. 2 for the past few games.
10. The offensive line (NR)
Hard to point to one member of the line specifically, although the guards had an exceptional game against Clemson's interior rush. Overall, the improvement on FSU's line has been immense, with Manuel being sacked just four times through four games and the running game already just 334 yards shy of matching what last year's team did in 13 games.
Clemson's high-flying offense finally found some cracks in the armor of the Florida State defense, but the Seminoles' offense managed to step up and overcome an early deficit.