Clemson at Florida State Preview

For three straight weeks Florida State has feasted on its opponents, outscoring them by a combined margin of 176-3. During that time, most of the talk around campus centered on whether FSU would cover the enormous point-spread that had been drawn up by odds makers.

With such a big disparity in the level of talent and depth of that talent between FSU and its first three opponents, only so much weight can be given to what has taken place.

Yes, FSU looks to have a much improved rushing attack. Yes, despite losing two preseason all-conference starters FSU still looks to be one of the top defenses in the country. And yes, senior quarterback E.J. Manuel looks to be 100% healthy and making great decisions with the ball in his hands. Now the question is, will FSU continue that success and make a statement to the entire country when No. 9 Clemson rolls into Tallahassee for a primetime showdown.

As this weekend's marquee game, ESPN's College Gameday will also be in Tallahassee, which is also followed by a barrage of national media coverage. Although the Seminoles' didn't fare so well when Gameday visited Tallahassee last year, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher is eager to see what his team took from that experience and how they will respond differently this year.

"Ya'll get to have the circus of the national media and all of that stuff," Fisher said. "And it will be very interesting to see how we handle that, how mature we are to handle those situations from a year ago."

Although FSU lost to Oklahoma on the big stage last season, it was what happened over the next two weeks that sent FSU's aspirations of an ACC championship down the drain. FSU lost at Clemson the next week, and then lost at Wake Forest the following week.

Saturday's showdown has much larger implications than last year's Oklahoma game and is essentially a winner-take-all for the Atlantic division of the ACC. As these two teams look to be head and shoulders above the rest of the ACC, it's hard to see the winner of this game faltering twice later on down the road.

One big difference from last year's matchup is the health of FSU starting quarterback EJ Manuel. Although Manuel has yet to play an entire game, in the seven quarters' he has played, he's amassed over 500 yards of offense and completed more than 71% of his passes.

Manuel is more excited than ever to get a chance to play in this rivalry again, and looks forward to the challenge on Saturday,

"I'm extremely anxious," Manuel said. "It's a huge rivalry, they're going to be great team, great defense, great offense, and they're going to score points, and we have to be ready to combat that. The fact that I'm 100% pain free in the shoulder has me excited about it."

With the stage set, coach Fisher hopes his guys can realize what's at stake, but still manage to eliminate the clutter and noise from the outside world. In his mind this is Florida State and these are the kinds of games he expects to be in as its head coach.

"This is a very important game, but hopefully during our time here at Florida State we're going to play in a lot of important games. And you have to learn to deal with those issues and distractions."


Nole Digest Top Stories