Of course, it all revolves around the play of All-American Tahj Boyd. The senior signal caller is probably a wrung or two ahead of Winston on the Heisman ladder, a true testament to Boyd's excellence under center. On the season, Boyd has completed 66.5 percent of his throws, for 1,783 yards, with 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He has also added five scores on the ground and definitely keeps defenses honest with his ability to improvise.
The ground game lacks a workhorse, although tailback Roderick McDowell (4.9 ypc, 385 yards) is certainly capable of moving the chains. Still, the top offensive weapon outside of Boyd is All-American wideout Sammy Watkins. After a sub par sophomore season in 2012, Watkins has revived his big-play career as a junior, leading the team in receptions (36), receiving yards (582) and TD catches (4).
No longer a one-dimensional program, Clemson takes great pride in its defensive play in 2013. The results certainly back that up, with the Tigers ranking 10th nationally in scoring defense (16.2 ppg). The team is allowing a mere 344.8 yards per game, showing a penchant for strong pass defense (158.3 ypg). A lot of that has to do with a devastating pass rush, as Clemson leads the nation in sacks (24). It helps to have one of the country's premier players in that regard in defensive end Vic Beasley (nine sacks).
Other defenders of note include linebackers Stephone Anthony (team-high 65 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks) and Spencer Shuey (57 tackles, 3.0 TFL) and defensive ends Corey Crawford (24 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks) and Shaq Lawson (18 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks).
Putting this game into context is something that Fisher has tried to do for his team.
"We understand this is a pivotal game for the season. It's an important game but it isn't the last game. We still have seven games to play. This is the next one. It's the most important one because it is the next one. We understand the implications of what it means. That's why you come to Florida State, to compete in these kind of games, atmospheres and environments and we have a huge challenge on our hands going up there."
This is the highest ranking showdown in the ACC in the last eight years. In 10 of the last 11 meetings in this series, the home team has won. This should be a classic battle between two of the nation's best. A veteran quarterback could be the difference in this one. Expect Winston to play well, but to be trumped by Boyd.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Clemson 31, Florida State 30