GAME: Clemson (4-4, 2-3 ACC) at No. 22 Florida State (6-2, 3-2)
LOCATION: Doak Campbell Stadium (82,300)
TV: ABC (Terry Gannon, David Norrie, Todd Harris)
TIME: 3:30 PM EST
SPREAD: Seminoles by 4.5 (line opened at FSU (-6)
SERIES: Florida State leads the overall series with Clemson 15-6, but the Tigers have won the last three and four out of the last five. Clemson interim head coach Dabo Swinney is 1-1 in his first two games as the Tigers' head man. He has never served as a head coach against the Seminoles. FSU head coach Bobby Bowden is second all-time in Division I-A coaching victories, compiling a 379-121-4 mark. He is 13-6 lifetime against Clemson.
FLORIDA STATE KEY PLAYER: QB Christian Ponder. He's been one of the biggest keys to Florida State's offensive resurgence this year and make plays with his arm or his legs. The Tigers must keep him contained at all times and bring him down in the backfield when given the opportunity.
CLEMSON KEY PLAYER: QB Cullen Harper. Harper made several tough throws against Boston College, but he also threw three costly interceptions. He can't have that same kind of performance and expect his team to come out on top.
INJURIES: Clemson - DT Jamie Cumbie (wrist) out, OG Barry Humphries (knee) out. Florida State - OL Will Furlong (foot) out, LB Mister Alexander (knee) out, WR Richard Goodman (knee) out, DE Toshmon Stevens (calf tear) out, DT Justin Mincey (knee) doubtful, LB Maurice Harris (ankle) questionable, CB Michael Ray Garvin (head) questionable, CB Terrance Parks (foot) probable.
FORECAST: Mostly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of showers in the morning...Becoming partly cloudy in the afternoon. Highs 73 to 76. Northwest winds around 10 mph. [ LINK ]
CRAZY STAT OF THE WEEK: Clemson has had 12 different players miss games this year due to injury and seven are offensive or defensive linemen. As a result the Tigers have started six different offensive line units in the first eight games. Overall, 12 different Clemson players have missed 35 total player games so far this year. That list includes eight players who have been a starter. Those eight starters have missed 28 combined games.
CLEMSON QUOTE TO NOTE: "Sometimes the Florida States in the past, once you get on them they quit and we know this team isn't going to do that. We know we've got a four quarter game that we have to be ready to play." - Clemson OL Thomas Austin.
FLORIDA STATE QUOTE TO NOTE: "We know how good Clemson can be and they have a lot of great guys and a lot of talent. I don't think their record really reflects how good they can be. We're going into this game like they're undefeated and their record doesn't really affect us. It really comes down to how we play, and it doesn't matter who we play, we've got to execute and out execute them." - FSU QB Christian Ponder.
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When Clemson has the ball - The Tigers were able to establish the ground game in the first half against Boston College by getting C.J. Spiller and James Davis into open space and outrunning the Eagles' linebackers. That won't be the case this week as Clemson must use more of a power running game to attack a lightning fast Seminole defense. Cullen Harper must be on-target, manage the game and avoid costly turnovers for the Tigers to pull the upset. Expect to see a good bit of man coverage and blitzing linebackers from defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews- which puts the pressure on Clemson's young offensive line. If the unit can hold up against the pressure, the Tigers have a big advantage with receivers Aaron Kelly and Jacoby Ford. If not, the 'Noles will have their way with the Clemson offense. FSU boasts the ACC's top defense, giving up just 259 yards/game. The Tigers are fourth in the total offense (339 yards/game) and fifth in scoring at 25 points per contest.
When Florida State has the ball - The 'Noles have turned the corner in year two under Jimbo Fisher and actually lead the conference in scoring at over 35 points/game. QB Christian Ponder has made all of the difference, becoming the first consistent signal caller under center since Chris Rix's freshman year. He's been aided by a potent ground attack led by Antoine Smith (72 yards/game and 11 touchdowns). Florida State's offensive line has been a work in progress, but has been effective since a dismal showing against Wake Forest earlier in the year. Defensively, the Tigers continue to be lights out, giving up just seven touchdowns in five ACC games this season. Clemson's linebackers must do a better job of creating big plays behind the line of scrimmage to put the FSU offense in long yardage situations.
Special Teams - Two of the most dangerous kickoff return men in the nation will be on the field Saturday afternoon. FSU's Michael Ray Garvin is first in the nation at 34.25 yards/return while C.J. Spiller is third at 31.90. The Tigers have been strong in most areas of special teams this year, ranking first in the ACC kickoff coverage (19.6 yards/return) and kicker Mark Buchholz has missed just one field goal all season in 10 attempts. Florida State's Graham Gano has been even better, converting on 15-of-16 field goals.
Intangibles - It's the third game under interim head coach Dabo Swinney and the Tigers are 1-1 and mathematically still alive in the Atlantic Division - how will they respond? Swinney continues to push the right buttons with his team, saying this week they won "in spite of" at Boston College where as they need to win "because of" against the ‘Noles. He's challenged his team all week in practice to play the complete game- which is something the Tigers haven't done since a 44-10 win over Wake Forest almost a year ago.
PREDICTION: Florida State 19 Clemson 17
One thing we've seen in the ACC this year is no team is truly head and shoulders above any other and that holds true here. Look for a defensive struggle with the team making the big play in the fourth quarter, or avoiding the costly mistake, to win.
DON'T FORGET! The Tiger Pre-game Show will be broadcasting live Saturday morning from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM from Doak-Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. Tune in to 104.9 WCCP FM in upstate South Carolina or on the world wide web at wccpfm.com as we celebrate our 71st consecutive game broadcasting on location covering your Clemson Tigers.
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