In what is being billed as the ACC Game of the Year, the 10th ranked and unbeaten Clemson Tigers visit the fourth ranked and unbeaten Florida State Seminoles this Saturday, with the winner of this game being in the conversation for the BCS Championship Game for the rest of the year.
Despite that magnitude and this being the first time two ACC teams have squared off while both being ranked in the top 10 since 2007, Florida State has still been installed a prohibitive 14-point favorite under the lights in Tallahassee with the ‘total’ set at 57.
1. Why Florida State will cover the spread: Florida State will cover this spread and in fact win this game rather convincingly if its defensive line can apply pressure on Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who is completing 73.3 percent of his passes so far this year. The Seminoles allowed Boyd to make some big plays with his legs in a 35-30 loss at Clemson last year, but we feel it will be a different story this year. Florida State’s defensive line has been devastating so far, albeit vs. considerably softer competition, and the line boasts the nation’s sack leader in Bjoern Werner with 6½. We feel that the Noles will handle this rise in class just fine considering that Clemson’s two biggest weaknesses this year are both the offensive and defensive lines. Speaking of the latter, another key for Florida State is running the ball effectively vs. a Clemson rushing defense allowing a disturbing 180.7 rushing yards per game.
2. Why Clemson will cover the spread: Clemson will cover this spread if it can somehow stop the Seminoles’ rushing attack and force quarterback E.J. Manuel to beat them with his arm. Yes, Manuel has 525 passing yards and is completing 71.2 percent of his passes, but that success came vs. two FCS opponents and vs. a mediocre Wake Forest team and it also came with great support from the running game. Manuel has never fared well when being asked to carry the offense and the Tigers hope to put him in that position here.
3. Total Talk: Unfortunately for the Tigers, we see Florida State accomplishing both of its goals, with Werner and the rest of the defensive line blowing up the young Clemson front, and for the Seminoles’ running game to run right through the suspect Clemson run defense led by Chris Thompson (254 rushing yards, 14.1 YPC), James Wilder Jr. (220, 6.9) and Devonta Freeman (147, 6.4). Now Clemson has a reputation for folding its tent rather quickly when faced with adversity (see West Virginia 70, Clemson 33 in Orange Bowl) so once it becomes apparent that the Seminoles are the superior team, Clemson will have a devil of a time stopping the bleeding and we see that leading to an ‘over’, even at the fairly large total of 57.
4. Betting Trends for the game: The home teams have gone 9-2 ATS in the last 11 head-to-head meetings between these schools and the ‘over’ is 5-1 in the last six meetings here in Tallahassee.
Florida State 42 – Clemson 20