This Saturday’s game in Death Valley between third-ranked Clemson and fifth-ranked Florida State is being called the biggest regular season game of the year in the ACC. Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley said this week, “It may be the biggest game in ACC history, I don’t know, but our goal is to win a national championship.”
Tiger Coach Dabo Swinney refused to put any more emphasis on this game, however. “Obviously, we know it’s a big game, got a lot of national relevance, conference relevance and all that. If you really change from what you normally do, then you send the wrong message,” Swinney said. “I know it’s not that way for fans, but that’s the way it has to be for us to be consistent.”
The game simply means one thing: the winner stays in the national title hunt, while the loser will play the rest of the season for something else. Clemson (6-0, 4-0 in the ACC) comes into this game following a come-from-behind 24-14 win over Boston College, while Florida State (5-0, 3-0 in the ACC) was off last week.
FSU won last year’s contest 49-37 in Tallahassee, but the Seminoles haven’t won in “Death Valley” since 2001. “They’re after our necks,” said Seminole quarterback Jameis Winston. “We beat them at our home field last year and they beat us at their home the year before that. It’s just a back and forth battle.”
As far as what most fans are looking for in this year’s match-up, back and forth will be a good way to describe it. FSU is averaging almost 54 points per game, while the Tigers are averaging about 44. Winston who is a redshirt freshman, has excited the Florida State fan base, but Clemson senior quarterback Tajh Boyd is still a leading Heisman Trophy candidate. This is also his final shot at leaving a special legacy at Clemson, and Boyd wants to win badly.
Even though the two quarterbacks are featured performers in the game, it could very well be defense that wins the game. Clemson has a much-improved defense over last year, in fact, the Tigers are leading the nation right now in sacks with 24. “I’m trying to get the ACC to give me 13 guys, and give me two more linemen so we can block them,” Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I’m serious…..they bring pressure.”
For the second time since the season began ESPN’s “Game Day” will set up shop at “Death Valley.” This is also the first time since 2005 that two teams from the ACC were ranked this high and faced each other on the field. (#5 Miami beat #3 Virginia Tech 27-7 in 2005)
Jameis Winston may be the quarterback of the future in the ACC, but it remains to be seen how he will fare against the Clemson pressure and the loud Tiger home crowd. Tajh Boyd is the quarterback of the present in the ACC and if he and his teammates can shake off the rust from last week, which saw them put just 10 points on the board in the first three quarters against Boston College, they’ll be okay.
When the season opened I picked Clemson to beat Georgia 34-31. The Tigers prevailed, 38-35. This week my pick is……Clemson 37, Florida State 28.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).