Talk is cheap

Florida State is back. Right? That's what we have heard for years about the Seminoles.

Florida State has been the chic pick to win the national title the past couple of years as a return to ACC dominance also has been predicted. EJ Manuel was even some peoples' pick to win the Heisman Trophy last year.

And yet, the Seminoles have floundered once the seasons actually have been played out on the field recently.

Florida State hasn't won an ACC football title since the conference's first championship game in 2005. The Seminoles basketball team even has won a title since then, claiming its first ACC tournament crown last year.

And the Seminoles have won the Atlantic Division only once since 2005, while Clemson has won the division twice in head coach Dabo Swinney's first three full seasons.

So it's not like Florida State – with either Bobby Bowden or Jimbo Fisher as its head coach – has been blowing through the ACC competition like it's the 1990s all over again (Florida State won or shared the ACC title 11 times from 1992 to 2003).

Yet, that's what we hear each summer. The Seminoles are back on the national stage. And they're going to power their way through the lowly ACC.


Well, we'll see.

So far the Seminoles have looked really good through the first three games of the season. Granted, they haven't exactly lined up Alabama, LSU and Oregon in those first three contests, but they have been dominant nonetheless. Florida State has played to a standard, and that standard has been pretty high in blowout wins over Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest.

Things, however, are about to get much tougher for the Seminoles with Clemson heading to Tallahassee on Saturday.

It should be a terrific game, a top-10 matchup to put the ACC on the national stage, and that's something the conference needs desperately. And there will be plenty of intriguing matchups all over the field, especially Clemson's high-powered, dynamic offense against Florida State's dominant, stingy defense.

That's what everyone will be talking about this week leading up to this game, but it will also be just as interesting to see Manuel go up against Clemson's defense. For his entire career, Manuel has been propped up as an elite quarterback, but he never really has played to that level against good teams. Clemson's defense has had some issues the first three games of the season, but it played well, for the most part, against Auburn in the opener and will offer Manuel's first true test of the season.

He hasn't been great in his career in these kinds of games, but he will have another chance to step up and lead his team to a big-time win. If he can do that, then maybe Florida State actually is back and ready for prime time and what will come the rest of the season. But we have to see it first to believe it, and Clemson will have a lot to say about that.

We heard a lot of the same talk last year, even after Florida State had lost to Oklahoma before it played Clemson. The Seminoles were going to bounce back and beat Clemson and then roll through the ACC.

But Clemson beat the Seminoles, stopped that talk and went on to win the division and conference championship. And it really wasn't a surprise with the recent history of the series as a backdrop.

Florida State leads the all-time series 17-8, and it dominated the early games, winning 14 of the first 16 matchups. Clemson has since controlled this series, winning six of the past nine games, including last year's 35-30 victory that helped propel the Tigers to the ACC title. The main difference between last year and this year is that the game is in Tallahassee, and that should give Florida State an advantage.

That said, Clemson won there in 2006 and should have won there in 2010, losing a 16-13 game on a long field goal in the final seconds in a game that the Tigers beat themselves more than they were beat by the Seminoles.

So that trip south isn't quite as daunting or intimidating as it will be made out to be this week. Yes, Doak Campbell Stadium is a nice facility, but it's not one that strikes fear in talented opposing teams.

Clemson has plenty of talent, and it will be ready to prove that Saturday. It will be a tough test, indeed, because Florida State is a terrific team loaded with talent and appears to be headed to a special season. Clemson will try to derail that again, like last year, but if Florida State can win this game then maybe it is back after all.

If not, Florida State will once again be looking up at the Tigers in the division and the conference.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter @DM_Shirley Top Stories