The Clemson-Florida State matchup has produced the ACC champion each of the last six years, a streak the Seminoles would love to end. Struggling Florida State aims to play spoiler to the fourth-ranked Tigers’ hopes of repeating as national champions as it takes to the road for Saturday’s contest.
Clemson already is in playoff mode, as it is fourth in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings and need to close out the regular season with triumphs over Florida State and South Carolina and win the ACC championship to make its way back to the national semifinals. “This is where you hope to be,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told reporters. “This is what it’s all about. You work all season to put yourself in position to have a chance to achieve your goals. The rest of our season hinges on these four quarters. This is championship football for us.” The Tigers haven’t exactly been dominant of late – following a 27-24 loss at Syracuse on Oct. 13, they shut down Georgia Tech’s ground game in a 24-10 victory and rallied for a 38-31 win at N.C. State last week. The Seminoles long ago were knocked out of ACC championship contention, and their season hit rock bottom in a 35-3 loss at Boston College on Oct. 27.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Clemson -16
ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (3-5, 3-4 ACC): The Seminoles’ offense took a major hit when quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season-opening loss to Alabama. Freshman James Blackman took over under center and has averaged 160.6 passing yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions, while freshman running back Cam Akers has been effective, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and rushing for 199 yards in last week’s win over Syracuse. The Seminoles’ defense is good enough to keep them in most games, and defensive end Josh Sweat (10.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) could have a big impact if he can pressure Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant.
ABOUT CLEMSON (8-1, 6-1): The Tigers again possess one of the nation’s top defenses, ranking eighth in scoring defense and 13th in total defense, and the unit doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. The offense hinges on Bryant, who has passed for 1,773 yards and seven touchdowns and leads the team in rushing yards (548) and rushing touchdowns (nine), but running backs Tavien Feaster (529 yards) and Travis Etienne (520) have big-play potential. Feaster broke an 89-yard touchdown run last week – tied for the third-longest in program history – and Etienne ran for an 81-yard score earlier this season against Boston College.
1. Clemson has won 40 straight games when rushing for at least 200 yards and 52 in a row when allowing fewer than 23 points.
2. Akers (695) ranks third on Florida State’s single-season rushing list for true freshmen, trailing Dalvin Cook (1,008) and Greg Allen (888).
3. Clemson WR Deon Cain has caught a pass in 32 consecutive games, the 10th-longest active streak in the nation and six shy of Artavis Scott’s program record.
PREDICTION: Clemson 33, Florida State 16