NOV. 13, 2010 - CLEMSON AT FLORIDA STATE
DOAK CAMPBELL STADIUM (81,500) - TALLHASSEE, Fla.
HEAD COACH: Jimbo Fisher (0-0 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 18 (10 - offense, 6 - defense, 2 -specialists)
KEY PLAYERS: QB #7 Christian Ponder (6-2, 217), WR #8 Taiwan Easterling (5-11, 187), RB #38 Jermaine Thomas (6-1, 190), OG #62 Rodney Hudson (6-2, 285), LB #13 Nigel Bradham (6-2, 235), LB #29 Kendall Smith (6-1, 224)
LAST MEETING: 2009 - Clemson 40 Florida State 24
ACC KICKOFF QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are very excited. I've waited for this opportunity my entire life. I've turned down some jobs looking for the homerun and this was that homerun (coaching at Florida State)." - Jimbo Fisher.
NOTES: Senior QB Christian Ponder returns after a year that saw him average 321 yards/game in total offense before his shoulder was smashed by Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel in a 40-24 loss at Death Valley. He should be back to full strength this year and will direct a unit that has virtually everybody back from a year ago, including all five starters on the offensive line.
He also is being touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate and has a web site devoted to his campaign.
Six starters return on defense, including three defensive linemen, two linebackers and a cornerback for new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops (Arizona). Stoops, who led a unit at Arizona that finished 25th in the country a year ago, will run a 4-3 scheme with multiple zone coverages at FSU.
The 'Noles finished 108th in scoring defense, 108th in rushing defense and 110th in passing defense in 2009.
KEYS FOR CLEMSON: Containing Ponder, both on the ground and through the air will be critical if the Tigers are going to pull the upset here. Considering FSU should have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league and that Ponder calls the shots, getting consistent pressure in the backfield, while also avoiding the big play once the pocket breaks down will be a good start.
Offensively, working against Stoops' zone scheme will be different than what was seen against Mickey Andrews. Expect less pressure from unexpected places, with more read-and-react. That means patience from Kyle Parker in the passing game, making sure he doesn't force the issue if the play is not there to be made. Taking a look at the bigger picture, this is the game that should ultimately decide the Atlantic Division championship, not only this year, but in the seasons to come.
However with this matchup being played at Doak Campbell, where Clemson has won just twice since 1989, the Tigers will be underdogs.
PROJECTED POINT SPREAD: FSU by 7
ALSO SEE: CFN'S 2010 FSU PREVIEW