TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State knows that to be considered “back,” to be taken seriously in the national title picture, it must win Saturday night.
The fourth-ranked Seminoles play host to No. 10 Clemson in an Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division matchup in Tallahassee, in a game that will have ACC and national title ramifications.
Last season, the Seminoles found themselves in a similar situation. The then-fifth-ranked Seminoles hosted top-ranked Oklahoma in a game hyped much like Saturday night’s.
The Seminoles lost to the Sooners 23-13.
“Last year, I feel like there was a lot of buildup for that game in particular,” senior kicker Dustin Hopkins said. “Throughout the summer, even through the first two games, we kind of had that looming in the back of our minds. But this year, I felt like we really have taken it week by week.”
This year, Florida State had the benefit of a game against Wake Forest to break the Seminoles into their ACC schedule and take some of the focus off the Clemson game.
The Wake Forest game bore extra significance because the Demon Deacons had beaten the Seminoles the year before. A focused Florida State demolished Wake 52-0 before turning its attention to what was suddenly a top-10 matchup.
Last year’s experience will be important because the Seminoles don’t have the luxury of slipping up if they want to be taken seriously on the national stage.
FSU faces a Clemson team with a defense that the Seminoles should be able to score on.
But the Tigers have a potent offense that will keep the Seminoles busy all night.
“They can run the football, they’ve got outstanding linemen, they’ve got great backs, receivers that make big plays, they can throw the ball downfield, the quarterback can scramble and run, it’s deceiving. They’re well-coached,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I could go on and on. It’s the balance and the big-play capabilities that come off of it.”
Led by junior quarterback Tajh Boyd, the Tigers offense features a trio of playmakers in wide receivers Sammy Watkins (sophomore) and DeAndre Hopkins (junior), and running back Andre Ellington (senior) who will test the Seminoles all night.
The key for FSU’s defense will be avoiding overpursuit and maintaining its assignments and gap responsibilities.
FSU won’t be the only team in the national spotlight with something to prove Saturday night.
Last year, Clemson lost its final three road games and was just 2-3 on the road for the season.
Its powerful offense sputtered in away games, averaging 135 fewer yards and 10 fewer points in those matchups.