Road to Tampa Bay: Game 9 - Clemson

Last season, Florida State defeated Clemson for the first time in four years as Antone Smith broke a 41 yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to put the game away in Tallahassee. This season, the game take place in Death Valley, and Clemson has revenge on their minds.

Last season, Clemson was arguably the biggest disappointment of the season as the preseason top 10 finished 7-6 with a loss in the Gator Bowl. This season, the Tigers have new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and Dabo Swinney will be in his first full season as head coach.

We will have a much better picture of what type of team this will be following an early-season meeting with Georgia Tech and a mid-season visit to Miami, who could be much improved. A week before Clemson heads to Tallahassee, they will host Coastal Carolina in a tune-up game for the Tribe who will be coming off of an in-conference game against the Wolf Pack of N.C. State.

It is unclear as to who will be the Tigers head signal caller this season as two underclassmen in Willy Korn and Kyle Parker will battle for the job. Early word from Clemson is that the job is Parker's to lose. Whoever wins the battle, will have to worry about their offensive line that rarely showed up last season. Florida State's defensive line will have to take advantage if this unit is not greatly improved and get pressure forcing bad decisions and clogging holes.

As far as weapons go, Clemson has two game changes in running back C.J. Spiller and receiver Jacoby Ford. Both are threats to find the endzone every time they touch the ball and it will be crucial to stop them. This will be Spiller's first full season as the feature back and is a dark horse in the race for the Heisman Trophy. Cornerback Patrick Robinson is more than capable of keeping pace with Ford as long as he is healthy which should make for a fun battle to watch.


Clemson receiver Jacoby Ford could be a difference-maker in the game

Defensively, look for Kevin Steele to have this defense up to par with the best of the ACC. The Tigers will likely be looking to bring pressure from the outside as they have two very talented defensive ends in Ricky Sapp and Da'Quan Bowers. They will have their work cut out for them as they will be trying to penetrate what is expected to be the best offensive line in the conference.

In the secondary, the Tiger boast one of the best cornerbacks in the conference in Chris Chancellor. He has started 30 games during his career and earned the reputation as a lockdown defender who can cut off half of the field in any game. Christian Ponder will be forced to look away from his most of the evening if FSU wants to move the ball through the air.

What Florida State must do to win: Control the ground game on both sides of the ball. If Jermaine Thomas and Co. can keep the chains moving, it kills clock and limits opportunities for Ford and Spiller. Defensively, FSU can not let Spiller create open space for himself or they will have a hard time trying to catch him. As for Ford, he is a track star who will carry the ball several times on reverses and if not contained, will not stop until he crosses the goal line.

NoleDigest way too early prediction: FSU has not won in Death Valley since 2001, even when they had a 10 win season and ACC Title in 2003. It is not an easy place for anyone to play and especially not easy when the crowd gets up for what will be the biggest home game of the season for the Tigers. It is still far to early to tell who has the upper hand in this game and will be a dog fight to the end. In the end, Spiller and Ford make too many big plays for the FSU offense to overcome and the Seminoles drop their second game of the season in a crucial division loss.

FSU 23 Clemson 28

*FSU 7-2 (4-2 ACC)

Stay tuned to NoleDigest all month as we continue out "Road to Tampa Bay" series with out next installment looking at a trip to Wake Forest.

*Based on NoleDigest way to early predictions.

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