Game Preview: FSU vs. Clemson

Florida State travels up to Clemson Saturday for a pivotal ACC Atlantic Division match-up. NoleDigest previews the game and gives a prediction on how the game is going to unfold.

Florida State travels to Clemson for a pivotal ACC Atlantic Division clash between streaking teams. The Seminoles bring a two-game winning streak, fueled by the league's leading offense, to Memorial Stadium for a primetime (ESPN, 7:45 p.m.) encounter with the Tigers and the ACC's stingiest scoring defense. Bobby Bowden's Seminoles, who lead the all-time series with the Tigers, can climb into second place in the division with a victory. Dabo Swinney's club, which has rattled off three consecutive wins, can grab a half-game divisional-lead with a victory. Both teams appear to be clicking on all cylinders offensively entering the game. FSU is averaging 510.3 yards and 39.6 points over the past three games. Clemson is putting up 42.3 points and 397.3 yards over the same stretch.

NoleDigest looks at this match-up as there are a few factors going into this game that will dictate who comes out on top. With both offenses playing so well, a shoot-out looks to be on the horizon.

C.J. Spiller vs. FSU's Defense

Over the past 3 weeks Clemson running back C.J. Spiller has climbed into the Heisman talk as he's been an all-purpose dynamo during the Tigers' current win streak. While Spiller and Clemson coasted last week over Costal Carolina, 2 weeks ago is when Spiller really showed how great he was playing when the Tigers went down to Miami and beat the Hurricanes in overtime.

In that game C.J. rushed for 81 yards, caught 6 balls for 104 yards and a score, and had 3 returns for 125 yards and another touchdown. Over the past month C.J. has started to play more of a role in the offense as the Tigers have tried to take some of the pressure off of freshman quarterback Kyle Parker.

We don't have to go into much detail talking about FSU's defense this year. They've been vulnerable in every facet of the game this year, and Spiller is the type of player that has given this unit fits this year. Teams have found success getting their running backs lined up outside with linebackers, and they simply haven't been able to stop many people on the ground this year.

Spiller is a match-up nightmare for this FSU defense this year. He is lethal out of the backfield, and he makes people miss when he is toting the rock. FSU's linebackers haven't played well this year, so expect Spiller's Heisman candidacy to improve after this week.

Clemson's Front Four vs. FSU's Offensive Line

Clemson's missing Da'Quan Bowers this week, yet they still boast arguably the ACC's top front four this year. Ricky Sapp, Jarvis Jenkins and Brandon Thompson all have been playing well for a defense rated 12th in the nation. Clemson has been somewhat susceptible to the run this year, though. This week will provide a tough match-up for them as FSU's been running well over the past several weeks.

The biggest reason why this is a key factor in this game is due to the Seminoles' struggles against elite defensive line's this year. USF keyed in on FSU and had a field day stopping Christian Ponder and the rushing attack. In the first half against North Carolina FSU played arguably their worst half of football as the Tar Heels' defensive line was able to dictate the game.

FSU's offensive line has been hot over the past few weeks. With Ponder battling bruised ribs this unit must keep Christian clean and allow the rushing attack to take some pressure off of FSU's passing game.

Christian Ponder vs. Clemson's Secondary

FSU's Maxwell Semifinalist has been great all year. Against N.C. State Ponder wasn't as efficient as he's been throughout the year, yet he was still able to lead the offense to a season high 555 yards of total offense. Ponder and the Seminoles' offense has surpassed 500 yards of total offense twice in their last four games and scored at least 30 points in three of their last four games.

Christian has been the ACC's premier passer this year. Ponder has a knack for making his passes count. Of his 26 pass completions against N.C. State, 11 went for first downs. He also accounted for four first downs rushing, making him directly responsible for 15 of FSU's 27 first downs. On the year, Ponder has accounted for 54 percent of the Seminoles' total first downs with his passing. All in all he is the engine that makes this offense run.

Clemson's secondary has been stellar this year as they are 5th nationally. They also have forced a ton of turnovers led by safety DeAndre McDaniel's 7 picks, and the defense has 25 pass break-up as well on the year.

This will be a test for Clemson. North Carolina came in rated as the nation's best pass defense 2 weeks ago, then Ponder simply lit them up. This week the Tigers face their toughest test. Can Ponder gut it out with the ribs? That will be a back story this week.

Prediction

This game is nothing different than what we've seen this year for FSU. Both teams will score in bunches. Clemson brings in a better overall defense than FSU has faced over the past month, so it is vital that FSU's offense takes advantage of every opportunity they get. Expect a shootout, but expect Clemson's defense hold up enough to lead them to the win.

Clemson 44 Florida State 39

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