Clemson University

Gameday preview: Clemson vs. Florida State

Injury report; five game storylines; five questions with safety DeAndre McDaniel; and more.

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Injuries

Clemson: DE Da'Quan Bowers (MCL sprain) and S Kantrell Brown (concussion) are out; TE Michael Palmer (concussion) is probable.

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FIVE GAME STORYLINES

Atlantic race

Win its final three ACC games, and Clemson claims the Atlantic Division title. Handling prosperity has not been the Tigers' strong suit in recent years, as they have continually crumbled amid the pressure. Now that Clemson moved into the driver's seat after the Miami upset, we will see whether this team is indeed different than its predecessors, as coach Dabo Swinney has insisted.

The ghost of Tommy

Not only was the Bowden Bowl marketable, it had a nice ring to it. What do you call the game in which embattled FSU coach Bobby Bowden squares off against the school that was poised to push his son, Tommy, off the plank before Tommy took the plunge so Swinney would get his shot?

Something to Ponder

FSU has avoided potential implosion by outscoring opponents in track meets, with Christian Ponder averaging a robust 306.6 passing yards per game - 17 more the next-highest QB - while eliminating mistakes in the process, boasting a 13:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

38 special

Since the bye week and Swinney's infamous chewing out of everyone in sight, the Tigers have scored at least 38 points in three consecutive wins. Like at Miami, the pressure will be on quarterback Kyle Parker to avoid costly mistakes while keeping Clemson from becoming a one-dimensional offense.

Hey, Mickey

FSU's defense has been far from fine, and it's been blowing assignments, not minds. The 'Noles hope to use longtime coordinator Mickey Andrews' retirement announcement this week as a rallying cry.

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Five questions with DeAndre McDaniel

McDaniel, a junior safety from Tallahassee, Fla.,

Miami highlights include a shot of you in front of a green locker, flashing "The U" sign, then flipping it upside down. What's the story?

We were doing it all week in practice. We were just messing around. When we were going up against the offense, we were messing around, calling ourselves "The U." Brandon Maye, he started throwing it up, then putting it down, and I liked it.

So, do you have any plans for the tomahawk chop?

Nah, I ain't messing with that.

The one offensive play you earned by returning an interception for touchdown was wrecked when the quarterback fell down. Do you get a mulligan as a receiver?

I hope. But it didn't work out. If I don't, I don't. But I would love to have that chance over again.

Dabo Swinney has already talked to you about making sure you listen to the right voices when looking into early entry in the NFL Draft. Do you approach these remaining games as perhaps your last go-round?

I ain't even looking into that right now. I just want this ACC championship and to go to the Orange Bowl. All that other stuff can stay to the side right now.

In little league football, they used to call you "Old Man?"

Because my coach told me I used to hit like an old man. You look at my old pictures, my head was too big for my body. I had a real big head.

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GAME WITHIN A GAME

FSU QB Christian Ponder vs. Clemson S DeAndre McDaniel

About Ponder: The 6-foot-3, 217-pound redshirt junior is vying with C.J. Spiller and Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt for ACC Offensive Player of the Year. Ponder ranks third nationally in total offense (327.4 yards per game) and has engineered consecutive fourth-quarter comeback victories.

How he'll win: Ponder has completed 72.2 percent of his passes the last four games and has feasted on man coverage, which figures to invite the Seminoles to go through their number of screen passes. Ponder gets rid of the ball quick, precluding the Tigers' stout defensive front from creating a pass-rush impact.

Key number: 254. Consecutive passes Ponder had thrown without an interception until last week's N.C. State game. It was the third-longest streak in ACC history.

About McDaniel: The 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior is making a strong case for ACC Defensive Player of the Year. McDaniel is tied with UCLA corner Rahim Moore with the national lead for interceptions (seven). He is also on pace to become the first player to lead Clemson in tackles and interceptions since Terry Kinard in 1982.

How he'll win: Ponder has put the ball in the air more than any ACC passer, and there's no defender more dangerous when the ball is in the air than McDaniel. McDaniel's instincts can get him in trouble, but the rewards have outweighed the risks to date. Furthermore, the heavy-hitting McDaniel probably presents the greatest danger to Ponder's bruised ribs.

Key number: 1. Interceptions McDaniel needs to tie Clemson's single-season record, shared by Justin Miller (2002) and Robert O'Neal (1989).

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STRELOW'S PREDICTION: Clemson 33, FSU 27

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