When the month of September is done, we will know if Florida State has legitimate playoff aspirations. A win at Clemson sets FSU up for a potential undefeated regular season and a likely rematch vs. the Tigers in the ACC Championship game. A loss could potentially crush FSU’s playoff hopes depending on the LSU game.
The other Death Valley was once a place FSU regularly won memorable games. The Puntrooski, Deion Sanders calling his shot, Peter Warrick’s arrival in 1997, and the first Bowden Bowl are all great FSU victories in Clemson. But it has been a house of horrors for the Seminoles for the entire 21st century. The Seminoles have lost 10 of their last 11 trips by an average of two touchdowns. Can these Seminoles find the same magic the 2013 team had to break the hex the Tigers have on them?
Florida State vs. Clemson
Date: Saturday, September 23rd
Location: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
Previous matchup: Clemson won 34-28 in Tallahassee. FSU fought valiantly but a mixture of injuries and DJ Uiagalelei making big play after big play gave the Tigers their seventh straight victory in the series.
All-time series: Florida State leads 20-15, Clemson has won last 7
Clemson Tigers: Team Preview
2022 record: 11-3, ACC Champions
Two things to know:
- Dabo Swinney made one of the biggest change ups in his tenure at Clemson replacing longtime assistant Brandon Streeter and hiring Garrett Riley to be Clemson’s offensive coordinator. Riley was the 2022 Broyles Award winner due to turning Max Duggan into a Heisman finalist and having TCU ranked in the Top 10 in scoring. Riley will be charged with getting the Clemson offense back on track after several years of decline following Trevor Lawrence going to the NFL.
- This game may end up being a referendum on Dabo Swinney’s roster management style in the new world of college football. Clemson has been an elite recruiter of high school talent for the last decade but they have never been a big player in the portal. Contrast this with how Norvell has dragged FSU out of its worst teams since the 70s almost exclusively thanks to high impact portal players and a win by the Noles may signal more changes are needed in Clemson to keep up with the times.
Three key players:
- Will Shipley, running back: An early Doak Walker favorite, Shipley will be heavily featured in Clemson’s new-look offense. He had one of his best games on 2022 vs an injury-riddled FSU defensive line that didn’t feature starting DT Fabian Lovett.
- Cade Klubnik, quarterback: The former 5-star recruit took over as Clemson’s QB in last year’s ACC Championship game. He was nothing short of electric going 20-24 for 279 yards and a touchdown. In the Orange Bowl vs Tennessee, Klubnik was statistically impressive going 30-54 for 320 yards but couldn’t make plays in critical moments. His further maturation as a QB and grasp of Garrett Riley’s offense early in the season will make a key difference in the game.
- Xavier Thomas, defensive end: Frankly I could’ve listed any of the potential high draft picks on the Clemson defense. Along with Jeremiah Trotter Jr, Barrett Caret, and Tyler Davis the Tigers have a multitude of studs who are playmakers and on early season watchlists to win ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Thomas is intriguing because he makes his return after missing a bulk of 2022 with an injury.
Florida State vs. Clemson: Game Preview
Best Case: A fully healthy FSU walks into Death Valley 3-0 with the same kind of intensity the 2013 team came in with. Jordan Travis has a performance that solidifies his preseason Heisman hype while Clemson’s new offense is still working out the kinks. FSU wins 38-17 and the playoff hype train will be running down the track.
Realistic Case: The Noles once again fight valiantly but the home crowd and talent advantage ultimately help Clemson win their 8th straight over FSU 31-28. Thanks to beating LSU to open the season the Noles playoff hopes aren’t dashed but they now have no margin for error.
Worst Case: Special teams mistakes, turnovers, missed assignments, ACC refs, anything that can go wrong in Death Valley does for the Noles yet again. Clemson wins 34-10. The Noles sit at 2-2 due to a season opening loss to FSU and are firmly out of the playoff picture.