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Florida State football opponent preview: Clemson

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Near the end of their toughest stretch of the 2015 schedule, Florida State will face their newfound bitter rivals, the Clemson Tigers, on November 7th -- the latest this matchup has occurred in a season since 2010, Jimbo's first year.

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

After facing the Clemson Tigers in mid-September last season, Florida State will know a great deal more about their identity as a football team this time around when they face the Tigers on November 7th in their ninth game of the 2015 season. This will assuredly be a hungry Clemson team that has lost to the Seminoles each of the past three years and will additionally be a fairly experienced team, especially by the time this game rolls around. Clemson did lose a good deal of talent on defense to the NFL this offseason, including a pair of 1st-round picks in outside linebackers Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony. On offense, Clemson returns many starters from last year's unit, especially at the skill positions. It is clear that Clemson will be the more experienced team when they play Florida State this season but will that be enough? Here is a look at how FSU matches up with Clemson in history, a look back at the most recent matchup, and what factors for the Tigers could influence the game one way or the other.

All-time matchup

In the last 12 games between FSU and Clemson, both teams have 6 wins. However, the recent success for Clemson is not indicative of the entire rivalry as FSU holds the all-time lead 20-8, including an eleven game win streak from 1992-2002. Jimbo Fisher is 4-1 in his career against Clemson with the lone loss coming at Clemson in 2011.

Most recent matchup

Last season, in the only game which Jameis Winston missed in his two seasons as Florida State's starting quarterback, the Seminoles survived a close game against the Clemson Tigers behind backup quarterback Sean Maguire as well as a well-timed forced fumble by Eddie Goldman. Clemson, who finished the season ranked No. 1 in the country in total defense, accomplished exactly what they wanted to do by shutting down the running game (FSU had negative rushing yards before Karlos Williams' game winning touchdown run) and making Maguire beat them. Although he had a few rocky moments, that is exactly what he did, going 21-39 for 304 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Florida State's defense struggled at points with stopping Clemson's offensive attack but the Seminoles were able to get the stops when they really needed them, forcing a fumble on what would have almost definitely been the game-winning drive for the Tigers and allowing nothing in overtime by forcing a 4-and-out on Clemson's sole possession in OT, including a humongous no gain on 4th-and-1.  Shortly after that, Karlos WIlliams ran in a 12-yard touchdown to clinch the 23-17 against-all-odds win over Clemson.

Clemson season preview

Bill Connelly released his season preview for Clemson today and although the whole thing is worth a read, here are a few important highlights.

If Deshaun Watson can stay healthy, this team is dangerous

Motion to allow Watson to wear a purple "no tackling allowed" practice jersey all year.

Watson's 2014 was teased potential. He broke his collarbone, broke his hand, and injured his knee. In limited time, he proved the recruiting rankings right, putting up explosive passing and efficient rushing. He won the starting job by helping to nearly defeat Florida State, led two of the season's best efforts (against UNC and NC State), and completed 14 of 19 for 269 yards against South Carolina on an injured knee.

Watson suffered so many injuries that he will have an "injury-prone" label even if he doesn't any more time.

And that would have been fine had Stoudt been a strong option, but he wasn't. His completion rate was decent, but there was no downfield threat; whereas Watson averaged 15.8 yards per completion, Stoudt averaged 9.9. And while his career finished with a great performance against Oklahoma (26-for-36, 319 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT), he was 19-for-40 for 163 yards, no scores, and four picks in losses to Georgia and Georgia Tech. Bad Cole was really bad.

In 2015, it's all about Watson. With him, Clemson likely has a top-30 or top-40 offense even if the running game doesn't improve. Without him, former walk-on Nick Schuessler is the likely starter. The supporting cast will need to raise its game -- even with Watson, the run game stunk -- but it will be an outright necessity if Watson misses time.

Although there is a lot to replace defensively, the talent might be there to do it

Recruiting and continuity have been so strong that, while Clemson is tasked with replacing more line production than anybody else in the country, the Tigers still return three interesting juniors (ends Kevin Dodd and Martin Aiken, tackle Carlos Watkins) and a senior (big tackle D.J. Reader) with decent experience. These four seem to have playmaking potential -- they combined for just 27.5 tackles in 2014, but 8.5 were behind the line. Including DT-turned-OL-turned-DT Roderick Byers, Clemson's got plenty of veteran options. Regression is inevitable, but experience should assure a high floor.

Blue-chippers hint at a high ceiling, too. Four-star sophomore end Scott Pagano could play a role, but it's hard to keep your eyes off of the incoming freshmen. Between tackles Christian Wilkins and Albert Huggins and ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, one assumes at least one or two will be featured in this year's rotation.

The linebacking corps is stocked with a combination of known quantities (junior Ben Boulware, nickelback/OLB Korrin Wiggins, maybe B.J. Goodson) and crazy-upside youngsters (Dorian O'Daniel, Korie Rogers, Chad Smith).

There's raw talent. How much is coaxed out will determine whether Clemson's D regresses a little or a lot.

A lot of how successful this season can be for Clemson hinges on whether or not Deshaun Watson can stay healthy, a trait that he has not yet demonstrated in his young career. It is tough to predict how this game will turn out considering the game will be over two months into the season and it is still not known exactly how good either of these teams will be. However, this game is high on the list of games that I think Florida State might lose. If Watson is able to remain healthy, I think it is very possible that a Clemson team with very few players on the roster who have ever beaten the Seminoles will enter the game voraciously hungry and take Florida State to the limit with a decent chance of ending their drought.