We have arrived. It’s the day before the game that was circled on the calendars of the Florida State faithful before the season even got started: Clemson. Now, things have not exactly gone according to plan for FSU this year. The Seminoles have already dropped a pair of games and desperately need a win to maintain national relevance. Clemson, on the other hand, has gotten out to a 7-0 start, albeit with a few scares on the way. As such, the Tigers enter Tallahassee as 4.5-point favorites, making them only the second road favorite inside Doak Campbell Stadium since Jimbo Fisher took over in 2010. Do our experts believe that Florida State will pull the home upset and get the season back on track in a big way?
By all accounts (and advanced metrics), Clemson is the better team this year. But the better team doesn't always win. Just last week, Penn State--a 19 point underdog--used some big special teams plays and a raucous crowd to upset Ohio State. FSU's DL is the healthiest it's been all season. They will put sufficient pressure on Watson that forces him into a couple mistakes. It will be up to the secondary to cash in on those opportunities. Speaking of cashing in on opportunities, red zone play could very well be the difference. Jimbo and company have to understand that 3 points ain't gonna get er' done in a game of this magnitude. Settling for field goals while the opponent is scoring touchdowns is how Saint Bobby lost to Miami all those years in the 80s and early 90s. Another potential factor? Time of possession. If the Seminoles can sustain long drives, they might not only keep the Clemson offense on the sideline, but also set themselves up for a second half comeback against a tired Clemson defense.
Ultimately, Jimbo pulls a couple pre-Halloween tricks out of his bag, Watson leaves one too many treats for Seminole defenders, and Cook explodes in the second half. Noles rise from the dead and get the win, 31-30.
College football games are won and lost in 2 key areas: quarterback play and the trenches. Clemson has massive advantages in both areas, particularly when FSU has the ball. Clemson is due for a complete performance and the suspect Seminole offensive line - as well as an easily confused secondary - will be the just the remedy the Tigers need. The game is over after the first quarter and Clemson rolls 41-17.
Clemson has struggled with some fairly unimpressive teams this year and has basically lost a game already. I mean, they struggled with Troy. What's up with that? They really should have lost to Auburn and Louisville too so make that three losses. In the meantime, FSU got robbed against UNC and had a small slip-up on the road but has not allowed a touchdown at home in four quarters. I think it's pretty clear which way things are trending right now. Clemson 34 FSU 13.
This is a perfect time for the Florida State defensive line to be the healthiest it's been all year and to beast out. But I still don't trust FSU’s defensive backs against Clemson's receiving corps. If the Seminoles hold them to 30, that'd be an accomplishment. I just don't think the FSU offense can do enough against Clemson's incredibly disruptive front 4 and decent secondary. Dexter Lawrence is going to probably injure someone, mark it down, and Christian Wilkins dominated last year. Hard to have much confidence, especially when you have a QB that likes to hold it until a receiver comes open. Gimme Clemson 37, FSU 27. Can't believe this game opened at Clemson -2, personally.
I expect Clemson to run Deshaun Watson more than they have all season, taking advantage of Florida State's inability to play zone defense. This will open things up for Dabo's dudes offensively. On the other side of the ball, the Tigers are stout up front but I think the Noles can have some success, especially if Jimbo Fisher opens up the playbook and uses Deondre Francois’ legs. In the end, Clemson is just too good, especially at QB. Give me the Tigers by 10 in Tally.
I think there's a decent chance that FSU wins this game but I'll have to see it to believe it; Final score Clemson 28 FSU 24. I think Kermit Whitfield will break a kickoff return against a poor kickoff coverage unit that he's been close to housing one against over the last few years. FSU's defensive line will create a lot of pressure & control the run game but Deshaun will be "on" this game & Clemson's WRs are just too tough to match. Offensively I'm not expecting much outside a couple of explosive plays from Dalvin Cook & Auden Tate; I'm expecting Clemson's DL to dominate largely stifling FSU's offense most of the night.
I just don't see this being a close game. Nor do I see it as a blowout, unless it happens late. I think Watson's legs really hurt Florida State and just the threat of it will put a strain on FSU's defense. The Clemson DL is going to be difficult to block, especially on the right side of the line. I think FSU possibly hangs around early but Clemson stays in control. I'm thinking something like Clemson 45-21.
For some reason I am expecting this game to start out differently for the FSU offense than we have seen so far this season. I think FSU’s offense will score on their first possession or two, as will Clemson's, before the defenses settle down a bit and keep the game from becoming a boat race.
This will be the Noles' most complete effort so far in all 3 facets of the game, but will it be enough to pull out a win? Both teams will get their share of points, but I feel the Noles’ defensive line will be the difference and they will apply enough pressure to stop Clemson's offense a few more times than Clemson's defense will stop the Seminoles’ O.
I am predicting the Noles will out gut Clemson by games end and we will come away with a close, tough win.
FSU 38 - The Excitable Dabo's 31
I don't have much confidence in FSU's chances on Saturday. While Clemson hasn't been the world beaters many thought they would be this season, I do think they're the more talented, more tested, more consistent team. I worry most about the FSU defense's ability to stop Clemson's passing attack, even if the 'Noles' secondary plays more man coverage throughout the game. On the other side of the ball, Clemson's stout defensive line is elite, and I'm not convinced that FSU's offensive line will not be able to protect Francois or open enough running lanes for Dalvin. The Seminoles' offense has become more concern of late, and Clemson is too good defensively to give me much hope in seeing marked improvement, particularly for an offense that starts habitually slow. Finally, I think Clemson's close scare with NC State was a worst-case scenario for FSU, as Clemson escaped and likely used their bye week to get refocused.
Much like Clemson did in 2013, I'm afraid FSU is relying on too many soft factors in this game. True, the Tigers haven't won in Doak Campbell since 2006, but I'm not sure how much of a factor that plays into the outcome of this one. The 'Noles could definitely pull the upset Saturday night, but they'd have to play at a level we haven't yet seen out of this squad this season.
Seminole faithful should enjoy each other's company, enjoy the Booster lots opening at noon, enjoy the magnificent North Florida fall weather, and enjoy the electric home environment for a Top 12 matchup in primetime. Never forget: in this blooming rivalry, the majority of one fanbase has lived long enough to witness their school win three national titles. The other fanbase is Clemson.
Clemson 31, Florida State 17.
I am very pessimistic about FSU's chances on Saturday and that's due to Clemson's very good defense and the belief that FSU has not solved many of the problems that are plaguing its defense. While the defense has looked better in previous weeks, I believe that has to do with the quality and type of defenses they've faced more than an actual improvement in play, although effort has not seemed to be a problem recently. FSU will need a few turnovers from Clemson and to do that they'll need to contain Watson and put pressure on him when the Tigers do get behind the sticks. I think the ‘Noles can get a bit of pressure on Watson but can the secondary keep close enough to Clemson receivers to make that pressure meaningful?
On the other side of the ball, I don't expect FSU to do too much. Francois' legs will probably be featured a bit more this game but Clemson's defense, particularly the line, is so good that I'm not sure how effective the Florida State offense will be. FSU will almost certainly be down at the half but can they regroup enough to claw their way back into the game? I'm guessing no.
Clemson 45 - FSU 20.
Call it a gut feeling, call it a hunch, call me crazy or even an idiot. Something is telling me that this game works out in Florida State’s favor.
Clemson is undeniably one of the best teams in the nation. However, the Tigers have also played a number of low-quality games this year to the likes of Auburn and Troy, either of which FSU would have won had they been facing off with Clemson that week.
To me, the difference maker will be Florida State’s ability to force turnovers paired with Clemson’s consistently-demonstrated proclivity for turning the ball over. I think the Seminoles force Watson and Clemson into a trio of turnovers, one of which comes in the red zone.
The Florida State offense bucks the trend, getting off to a relatively hot start and uses a strong second-half effort to upset the No. 3 Tigers and show further signs of life.
Florida State 34
The Florida State, if continues on the trend it is currently on, should do fairly well against the Clemson offense. However, that still doesn’t mean the unit will be able to hold Deshaun Watson and his weapons under thirty points. On the Florida State offense, Deondre Francois will not throw a passing touchdown, and both scores will be on the ground from Dalvin Cook. Clemson is a whole other animal, and I just don’t see how Florida State keeps up.
Clemson: 31 - Florida State: 17
I just can’t get past how talented the Clemson front seven is on defense; and I’m not sure how much the ‘Noles will consistently get past them either, or keep them off of Francois. I think Fisher will set up some explosive plays, and the Seminole defense is inspiring much more confidence than it had early in the season, but the absence of Derwin James will be felt heavily in this one, especially with regard to FSU’s ability to get off the field against the Clemson offense.
I also think that Clemson will take advantage of some inexperience in the Florida State secondary to break some big plays of its own, and unlike last year, when a win in this game would have given the ‘Noles a shot at another ACC crown and CFP berth, I’m just not certain how this team will respond if it gets down early and has to fight back late. And given recent history, there’s very little reason to think that won’t be the case.
Clemson 34, FSU 24.
Bud Elliott and Ingram Smith
For Bud and Ingram’s predictions, check out the Clemson preview edition of the Nolecast.