So, as the Tigers travel to Tallahassee, back out on a limb we go...
CLEMSON OFFENSE VS. FSU DEFENSE
Easily the most troubling matchup of the game from a Clemson standpoint, the Seminoles are big, fast and talented on defense. Again. And though the Tigers showed much intestinal fortitude in recovering from having blown a 17-0 lead at Boston College, make similar mistakes against this team and you might as well hand them the game. The one area that can work in Clemson's favor - if the line can block - is the same place the Tigers have hurt the Seminoles in the past. FSU's aggressive, man-up defensive style lends itself to big plays, and goodness knows Clemson has weapons. As usual with this team (and with any team, really), how it performs in the trenches and takes care of the football will play a big factor in this one.
ADVANTAGE - FSU
FSU OFFENSE VS. CLEMSON DEFENSE
As the second year of Jimbo Fisher's offense has moved forward, FSU has gotten better and better. A large dose of that is because of improved play in the offensive line, which in turn has sparked the running game. But another reason is the play of quarterback Christian Ponder. Not as polished a passer as perhaps he will be some day, Ponder nonetheless makes enough plays with his arm - and feet - to make Fisher's offense work. Clemson's defense, meanwhile, continues to play well and now is showing a little attitude. The plays made at the end of the BC game - see McDaniel, DeAndre - showed a nastiness and a swagger we've been waiting on for quite a while. This should be a fun matchup all afternoon long.
ADVANTAGE - CLEMSON
Mark Buchholz finally missed a kick (not too long after a television graphic showed a list of the only kickers in college history to finish perfect for the season. Doesn't it always work that way?). But he came back and hit a big field goal late vs. BC that stretched the Tigers' lead out to six points. By the numbers, Florida State holds a statistical advantage in more categories - though some are very close. This is one of those games where playing at home could be the difference in this category.
ADVANTAGE - FSU
Three weeks ago it would have been incomprehensible that this category would even be close. However, what Dabo Swinney has done with the mental aspect of his team is nothing short of amazing. And having gotten the "haven't won in Tallahassee since..." bugaboo out of the way two years ago, those who were there won't be bothered by the Doak Campbell crowd and/or surroundings. Plus, having won four-of-five vs. the Seminoles has to stand for something.
ADVANTAGE - CLEMSON
I really want to pull the trigger and predict a Clemson win Saturday. I really do. But I can't. Something inside me says the Tigers will play hard, and they'll play fairly well. But a mistake or two cropping up at the wrong time will prove to be the difference.
THE PICK: Florida State 28, Clemson 27
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