Florida State and Clemson won’t play for control of the ACC on Saturday as most expected in the preseason. The Tigers still have plenty at stake in Tallahassee, despite entering the top-15 showdown two games ahead of FSU in the Atlantic Division.
No. 3 Clemson has a chance to overcome its biggest remaining hurdle in its quest for an undefeated regular season and beat the 12th-ranked Seminoles in Tallahassee for the first time in a decade.
“This is Clemson-Florida State. It doesn’t matter what the records are. There’s plenty of juice in this one,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “To go on the road and have the chance to beat a top-15 team, it doesn’t matter what the standings are, there’s a lot of pride involved in this game. Both teams understand what Clemson-Florida State means and the ramifications for this game.”
The Tigers are 1-11 in their past 12 trips to Florida State, with the only win being a 27-20 victory in 2006.
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Clemson had every opportunity to win its last visit to Tallahassee with Heisman winner Jameis Winston suspended for the game.
The Tigers controlled the game throughout, but lost 23-17 in overtime.
“I’ve watched the game twice this week,” Clemson redshirt sophomore linebacker Kendall Joseph said. “You can dominate a team, but you have to finish at the end of the game when it counts.”
Clemson outgained FSU by 90 yards but missed two short field goals and fumbled in the red zone in the final minute of regulation.
“We’ve played well in spurts down there over the last few years, we just haven’t been able to finish,” Swinney said. “If you’re going to win at somebody else’s place, especially against a highly ranked and highly touted football team, you’ve got to finish.”
The loss in 2014 has added extra motivation for this week’s game.
“We’ve accomplished a lot as a program but that’s one thing that we haven’t done in a while,” Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said of Clemson’s struggles at FSU. “That’s what we’re looking to do this week.”
Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson burst onto the national spotlight two years ago at FSU, taking advantage of his first extended playing time by putting up 296 total yards and a touchdown without turning the ball over.
Watson would love to emerge from Tallahassee with a win this time but is not taking anything for granted.
“It’s Clemson-Florida State. None of the stats, records, none of that stuff matters,” Watson said. “It’s a big game, rivalry game. It always comes down to who performs better on that day.”
Even though FSU has a pair of losses, the Seminoles are still talented enough to pull off the upset, according to Swinney.
Florida State and Alabama are the only two teams to have top five recruiting classes each of the past three years in the 247Sports composite rankings, The Seminoles have been impressive since being blown out by Louisville, with their only loss coming on a last-second field goal to No. 21 North Carolina.
“This is a team that a lot of people picked to win the national championship that’s good enough to win the national championship,” Swinney said. “There’s always 10 or 12 teams out there that are good enough, and this bunch is as good as anybody in my opinion.”
Predicting the Final Four
The first College Football Playoff Rankings will be released on Nov. 1. Here is Jerry Palm’s prediction for the Final Four:
Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Washington
Peach Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State
Who: Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC) at FSU (5-2, 2-2)
When: 8 p.m., Saturday
Where: Doak Campbell Stadium; Tallahassee, Fla.
TV: ABC Radio: 93.1 FM
Line: Clemson by 4 1/2
The Road to Perfection
The Tigers (7-0, 4-0 ACC) are favored to win their second straight ACC title and earn another berth in the College Football Playoffs. But the path has some potential speed bumps.
At Florida State
Record: 5-2, 2-2 ACC
Date: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Clemson is 1-11 in its past 12 visits to FSU. The Seminoles and QB Deondre Francois looked finished after losing 63-20 to Louisville, but revived their hopes.
Record: 4-4, 2-2 ACC
Date: Nov. 5
Syracuse sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey has topped the 300-yard passing mark six times this season for a very improved Orange team.
Record: 5-2, 2-1 ACC
Date: Nov. 12
“We still have our dream of an ACC championship,” Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman said. “It is not in our hands, exactly. We have to win the rest.”
At Wake Forest
Record: 5-2, 2-2 ACC
Date: Nov. 19
The Tigers have had trouble at Wake, where they are 4-3 since 2003. Wake defensive end Duke Ejiofor has made midseason All-America teams.
Record: 3-4, 1-4 SEC
Date: Nov. 26
Freshman Jake Bentley gets his first crack at the Tigers, trying to end a two-game losing skid. Prior to that, the Gamecocks had won five straight.