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Saturday, November 8th, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 24th-ranked Florida State Seminoles welcome the Clemson Tigers to Tallahassee for an ACC showdown this weekend.
Typically, this game would pit FSU head coach Bobby Bowden against his son, Tommy, but the younger Bowden was removed from his position as the leader of the Clemson program a few weeks ago. Dabo Swinney is the Tigers' interim head coach, and he got his first victory last weekend at Boston College by a 27-21 final. The triumph halted a three-game slide for Clemson, which is 4-4 overall and needs to finish strong to become bowl eligible.
As for Florida State, it carried a four-game win streak into last weekend's road clash with Georgia Tech, but the result of that battle was a 31-28 setback. The loss dropped the Seminoles to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in conference. They are certainly still in contention for the ACC title, as the league is up for grabs at this point because of tremendous parity.
Florida State holds a 15-6 series lead over Clemson, but the Tigers have won the last three meetings.
Clemson tailback C.J. Spiller showed off his versatility against Boston College last weekend, setting a program record for running backs with six catches, totaling 105 yards. He was forced out of the game in the third quarter after being dazed by a hit, but Spiller finished with 242 total yards in the contest. "Without him (Spiller), sometimes you've got to hit a single and bunt him over to second, but with C.J. you can hit a home run at any time," said coach Swinney, speaking of his star's explosiveness. "He just made play after play." Felllow runner James Davis scored a rushing touchdown in the clash, and Cullen Harper passed for 252 yards and one score. Still, Harper was intercepted three times, and those mistakes made the game much closer than it should have been.
Clemson is averaging 25.5 ppg and 339.4 total ypg, but those numbers fall short of lofty preseason expectations. Harper has seven touchdowns against 11 interceptions and has been painfully inconsistent. Davis leads the club with 478 rushing yards and six touchdowns, while Spiller has run for five scores and caught a sixth.
Give plenty of credit to the Clemson defense, as it limited Boston College to 3-of-18 success on third down conversion attempts last weekend. The Tigers failed to register a single sack or interception, but a pair of fumble recoveries proved to be huge. They held BC to 18-of-39 passing and allowed just 6.4 yards per completion. That effort against the pass was stellar, and a repeat performance this weekend would almost assuredly lead to victory. "I'm so proud of those guys and they believed," said coach Swinney. "I've been hitting that tree in the same spot for two weeks, over and over and over about a mentality, about oneness, about playing 60 minutes and believing, expecting to win, expecting to make the play, and understanding that you can win in any phase."
Opponents are generating just 16.8 ppg and 307.1 total ypg against Clemson, which has been solid defensively this season. The Tigers are permitting fewer than four yards per rushing attempt and fewer than 10 yards per pass completion. Michael Hamlin leads the team with three interceptions.
Florida State has been explosive offensively this season, as the team is generating 35.2 ppg and 393.2 total ypg. Christian Ponder has taken the majority of snaps for the Seminoles this season and has completed 54.5 percent of his passes for 1,268 yards and 10 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Greg Carr leads the receivers with 24 catches for 380 yards and two touchdowns, while tailback Antone Smith spearheads the ground attack with 575 yards and 11 touchdowns. Smith does have sore ribs, but he figures to be in the lineup this weekend.
In the loss to Georgia Tech last week, Ponder completed 16-of-27 passes for 149 yards with one touchdown and one interception. With Smith banged up and limited, freshman Jermaine Thomas shined in the backfield, racking up 130 rushing yards on only nine carries. Preston Parker led the receivers with five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Through eight outings, the Seminoles are permitting 18.4 ppg and 259.2 total ypg to the opposition. While FSU has allowed some big plays through the air, they have been able to hold opposing quarterbacks to a collective completion rating below 50 percent. Also, the defense is yielding just 3.3 yards per rushing attempt. Derek Nicholson has been tremendous for FSU, as he leads the team with 51 tackles, 10 of which have resulted in lost yardage. As for Everette Brown, he has 12 TFLs, including six sacks, and he has forced a pair of fumbles.
Georgia Tech relies almost solely on its ground attack to move the ball and score points. Last weekend, the Yellow Jackets only attempted six passes. Unfortunately, FSU was unable to stop the run, even though the team was able to crowd the line of scrimmage on every play. Tech finished with 288 yards on the ground and four scores, averaging 6.4 yards per attempt. "We simply couldn't stop the wishbone," said Bowden after the loss.
Florida State is the choice in this clash, as it has the obvious advantage of playing at home. Harper is inconsistent under center, and the Seminoles will find a way to get to Clemson's quarterback.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida State 27, Clemson 20
11/05 10:25:59 ET