Photo via Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Date & Time: October 29, 2016, 8:22PM
Location: Tallahassee, FL; Doak Campbell Stadium
Game Projection: Clemson win, 26-24. Francois will throw 2 picks but will have an impressive amount of yards.
Impact Players: (FSU) Dalvin Cook, Deondre Francois, DeMarcus Walker, Josh Sweat
(Clemson) Deshaun Watson, Christian Wilkins, Mike Williams
My first reaction when I saw the matchup for the Clemson vs. Florida State game was a disappointment. This wasn’t the game I was hoping for in terms of rankings, and growing up as an avid Seminole—and being able to still support them because I’m at a school with division III sports—this game comes with a sense of foreboding. For the first time in a good amount of years, the Noles aren’t ranked in the top 10, and the roles are flipped. Clemson comes into this game at no.3 in the nation, while FSU is lagging behind at no.14. Every year for the last seven years, the winner of this game has gone on to the ACC championship. Statistically, Clemson should win this game; but as my dad always told me, never underestimate any rivalry. As a staunch Gators fan, my dad has seen the unranked Noles beat the highly ranked Gators, and vice versa. Just as an unranked Tigers squad took down the no.3 FSU team in 2003, the same thing can happen with a low ranked Seminoles team. Not that this means much for this season, but FSU has a 20-9 edge over the Tigers all time and a home field advantage. With a seating capacity of 80,000 and a ton of rowdy, drunk FSU students, anyone would be intimidated.
Seminoles fans have reason to worry about this game. A two-loss team in the top 12 is sketchy already, and the Seminoles have always had a problem with consistency. Despite their weaknesses, the Seminoles come in with both strong offensive leaders and a stellar defensive line. Dalvin Cook averages 128.6 yards per game, and Quarterback Deondre Francois passes for 268 yards per game. He’s no Jameis, but he seems like an okay guy, and at this point for the FSU PR team this is all we can hope for. Cook needs only 100 more yards to hit the 1,000 mark, his third 1,000-yard season. On the defensive side of things, DeMarcus Walker has 8.5 sacks out of 32 tackles, putting him at second in the nation for sacks. With his injury finally clearing up, Josh Sweat brings a new element of explosive talent to the Noles defense.
The Tigers lead the ACC with a strong undefeated record. They are an all-around solid team with a lot to throw at the Noles. QB Deshaun Watson is #8 nationally in touchdown passes, and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins leads a dominating defense that is sure to be a headache for the Noles. Mike Williams poses a deep threat for receiving, and the Seminoles will have to play some amazing defense to keep the ball out of his hands.
It’s heartbreaking for me to project a loss from my Seminoles, but I believe after a hard contest from both teams the Tigers will come out on top. FSU will battle plenty of errors throughout the game and will cause their fair share of penalties (what’s new?) and will cause Noles fans all over the country to pull their hair out after 100 yards of penalties. Clemson will underperform, and will not look like the same team that beat Auburn and Louisville; if there’s any team that can rattle the Tigers, it’s FSU. Regardless, the Noles will play worse and ultimately will fall to the Tigers. This game will mark the end of an era for them—since 2011 they have been a dominating force in college football. Starting with last year’s loss against Houston, they have begun their slow descent into mediocrity—even their stellar recruiting class may not be able to save them this time.