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FSU vs. Clemson: Staff predictions

The 'Noles and Tigers are set to square off once again-- here's how we think this one plays out.

Clemson's Deshaun Watson and FSU's Jalen Ramsey
Clemson's Deshaun Watson and FSU's Jalen Ramsey
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 16 Florida State Seminoles. The No. 1 Clemson Tigers. They meet in Death Valley on Saturday afternoon. This is how we think it goes down.

Bud Elliott:

Click over to the Nolecast game preview for this prediction, along with that of our Ingram Smith.

David Visser:

The FSU defense is gelling at just the right time for this game, and freshman studs Derwin James and Josh Sweat have each become consistent playmakers. I think the 'Noles have more success here than many are expecting. Defensively, I think the Tigers dare the Seminoles to throw over the top-- which they may well do a time or two, concerning offensive line issues notwithstanding.

But Florida State simply hasn't done enough on the road this season in lesser challenges for me to buy in that they'll figure it out for Death Valley. Additionally, Jimbo Fisher has attributed player mistakes to excessive pressing, and that could very well reoccur given the situation and venue the 'Noles find themselves in on Saturday afternoon. 27-23, Clemson.


It's kind of liberating to have FSU be a two-digit underdog. Which OL shows up is basically going to dictate whether FSU can pull off the upset. Unfortunately, our OL has not traveled this year, and there's no reason to expect that to change, especially in Death Valley. A hobbled Cook, if he even plays, won't find much room to run. I expect Maguire to start and potentially have a nice game, but FSU won't cover. Expect a lot of false starts and a few turnovers. 34-17, Clemson.


I'm not going to get super technical and try to come up with analysis for this game. The team is banged up, the O-Line has been spotty all year, the QB situation is interesting, to put it mildly, and the team has been flat out unimpressive on the road. But for some reason, just call it a feeling, I think the D stands tall, Maguire makes a few deep plays, and Dalvin does just enough. People who know me are not going to be happy with this pick-- deal with it.

FSU 27, Clemson 23


There's a whole lot going on in this game. The pressure is certainly on Clemson, as it's the better team, but I wouldn't be surprised if an iffy start snowballed on the Tigers, and things get out of hand for them. On the other side, FSU is young on the offensive line and weak at quarterback, so it shouldn't surprise anyone to see FSU struggle to keep up with the Tigers.

However, the most likely scenario lies somewhere in the middle. FSU's defense and pace will slow the Clemson scoring attack, but disjointed execution and a good Clemson defense will keep FSU from mounting any sustained pressure, meaning Clemson wins 31-17, using a late score to ice the game.


27-24 Clemson. I'm sad :(


My thoughts on this game are pretty similar to my thoughts when FSU played Oregon. I fear FSU could lose by a pretty good margin. FSU has to avoid turnovers and has to sustain long drives if it wants any chance of winning or any chance of not getting blown out. Failure on either of those, and this could get ugly. I'll land somewhere in the middle and say Clemson 41, FSU 21.


Clemson is #1, FSU is #16 with several starters out. Maguire had an impressive outing but it was against a terrible Syracuse defense, and Cook is still questionable. Add in that it's an away game and FSU has yet to show up for one of those, I just can't see a victory for our Noles. Then again, I never saw the 2013 victory coming, so who knows.

FSU 23 - Clemson 38


I don't like many of the individual or group matchups for FSU against Clemson. I think Clemson's defense is going to have its way with FSU in obvious passing situations, and I think Cook will be very limited health-wise. I started at 48-17 Monday, 41-17 by yesterday, and now I've settled on 38-17, Clemson.

Kyle Griffis:

I'll gladly take the title of "soft factor-based blatant homer" predictor this week. Every rational thought in my head tells me FSU is probably dropping this game -- the injuries, the weather, the atmosphere of this road game -- but I just can't shake a feeling that this game ends up turning on a weird play in our favor. How bad the weather is will obviously play a big factor. Will the poor conditions detrimentally affect Watson's mobility and passing ability more than they affect Maguire?

Assuming Dalvin is healthy enough to get his carries and keep the clock running on offense, I like our rushing attack more than theirs. Assuming Maguire plays very well, assuming the offensive line doesn't make blatant mental errors, and assuming NLS and Terrance are healthy enough to play and keep Clemson's offense in check, I could foresee a scenario where the defense keeps us in it to the end. If the game turns on play in the trenches, I like our defensive line over their offensive line, especially if the rain affects Watson's mobility. Don't forget that on the other side of the ball, Clemson's defense gave up 41 points to NC State last week. I also like Jimbo's preparation ability over Dabo's preparation ability, particularly with a curtain of uncertainty surrounding who will actually line up for FSU on Saturday.

I'll eat up all the soft factors in this game, too. This is the first time in 34 years Clemson has been ranked #1. They haven't beaten FSU at all since 2011.The 'Noles embarrassed them the last time we came to Clemson. They're going to put so much pressure on themselves Saturday to win this game and legitimize their program. We have the psychological advantage over them. This is still our conference and our division, they have to come take it from us.  This is not the kind of game Clemson historically wins as a program.

My head tells me Clemson by 10-14. My heart tells me something crazy could happen. If we play our best game of the year, and Clemson makes enough mistakes, it can happen. I'll take FSU 37-34.

Matt Minnick:

It's not that I don't believe FSU could win -- after all, it is the crazy world of college football -- I just don't find the chances of a 'Nole victory all that high. With a fully-healthy Cook (or even a 90% healthy Cook), and a healthy Terrence Smith, Trey Marshall, and Tyrell Lyons, I might feel differently. But if my aunt had balls, she'd feel differently too.

Clemson is just flat out a better team than FSU right now. And honestly, they just might be the best team in the country. Their DL is loaded, Watson is a dynamic passer, their receivers are studs, and Wayne Gallman has been a revelation at RB.

I am excited to see what kind of play calls Jimbo has up his sleeve for this game, but keep in mind FSU averages just 18 PPG on the road this season.

All those folks waiting for the Tigers to "Georgia" need to check their calendars and understand it's not 2011 anymore.

Clemson 34, FSU 17

Andrew Miller:

FSU, 35-31: I think the rainy conditions will help the Noles from prior in the season, and I also believe that if Sean Maguire is the starting QB after all, his experience vs. Clemson last year as well as that deep ball threat will be able to get past the very good Clemson defense. As long as the D-line can continue to press as they have been for the past few games, the Noles could actually pull this thing out.


42-17, Clemson. Because, Dabo.


Maybe it will be a downpour. Maybe Clemson won't be able to handle the weight of being the number one team in the country. Florida State just has Clemson's number. Clemson will vintage Clemson this game. There are other non-matchup related reasons FSU might win. But none of them are because Florida State is a better team this year than Clemson.

Clemson has looked shaky only a couple times. One of those was going super conservative against Notre Dame after building a lead. Luckily for Clemson, ND turned the ball over late a couple times, crippling the Irish comeback. I think the Tigers have learned their lesson since then. They have a dynamic offense that can score points in a hurry. They also have a stout defense with some individual freaks. The Florida State offense has been just a step above horrific on the road. The youth and inexperience doesn't travel well. Oh, and the injuries have piled up on both sides of the ball for FSU. The hope is that FSU doesn't get run out of the building. But if Swinney has the opportunity to get some revenge for 2013, he will. Clemson 41- FSU 20.


This should be a tougher game to predict than it turned out to be. I expect it will be a close, hard-hitting game that could become a sloppy one due to the wet field, so it's imperative FSU continue not to turn the ball over, like it has successfully done so far this season. With these two teams as closely matched as they are, turnovers are going to decide the winner.

Although CU's offense is considered by most to be better than FSU's, I think the 'Nole offense will be able to move the ball more efficiently than the Tigers. This will be due to the Seminole defense stopping Clemson's offense more than Clemson's defense will be able to stop the FSU offense.

I believe sometime early in the 4th quarter FSU is going to tear out Clemson's heart and eat it right then and there, right in front of around 70,000 shocked and horrified Tiger fans' cryin' eyes.

Going into this game, one of the biggest questions I have is which player(s) will be assigned the responsibility of cutting out the sod to bring home to plant in the cemetery.

FSU 31 Clemson 24

Josh Pick:

There are just too many questions surrounding this FSU team. They have significant injuries on both sides of the ball, the QB situation isn't pretty, and the offense is very inconsistent, especially on the road. I think Deshaun Watson leads the Tigers to a 34-21 win (can't remember exactly the last time I thought FSU would lose---but I know it's been years).

Curt Weiler:

Florida State has one thing going for it that Clemson does not: (relatively) no pressure. Clemson enters as the No. 1 ranked team in the College Football Playoff, with high expectations, while Florida State enters in what was widely considered a rebuilding season.

Although we likely won't know until hours before kickoff, I believe Sean Maguire gets the start behind center for the Seminoles, while Dalvin Cook returns to the backfield after missing one game.

I think it's essential for Florida State to keep the game close early and not let Clemson build a double-digit lead in the first quarter. If they can do that, their odds go up as the game goes on with pressure building on Clemson even more.

In the end, I am picking against FSU for the first time this season. Clemson has too much talent for this young Seminoles team and will win 31-21.