Week 8 - Florida State at Clemson
Florida State QB Jameis Winston
Florida State QB Jameis Winston
Posted Oct 17, 2013

Week 8 Fearless Prediction & Preview - Florida State vs. Clemson

- Miami at North Carolina | Syracuse at Georgia Tech
- Maryland at Wake Forest | Duke at Virginia
- Old Dominion at Pitt | Florida State at Clemson

Florida State (5-0) at Clemson (6-0) Oct. 19, 8:00, ABC

Why You Should Give A Hoot: You've got center stage this week, ACC. You've earned it.

It's been an amazing first half of the season for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson over Georgia. Miami over Florida. Three league members in the top 10. And now this, possibly the most important football game in conference history, with the eyes of the sport watching. The winner gets entrenched in the national title chase, while the winning quarterback could jet to the head of the Heisman line. This is huge on every imaginable level.

Clemson has navigated the tougher slate to get to this point, largely because of its opening day win over then-healthy Georgia. Relatively close calls with NC State and Boston College aside, the Tigers have looked every bit like a top 5 team, with QB Tajh Boyd leading the way like an unflappable senior. When Clemson rose to No. 3 following the opener, it was the school's highest ranking since 1988, testament to the job being done by Dabo Swinney and his assistants.

Florida State doesn't have a senior taking snaps. In fact, the Seminoles are unbeaten and No. 5 overall with a precocious redshirt freshman taking snaps. Jameis Winston has been brilliant in his first five games, capped by a five-touchdown effort in a pre-bye week demolition of Maryland. The ‘Noles haven't quite been tested like Clemson yet, but they're also coming off arguably the most dominant performance of the first half of 2013.

Why Florida State Might Win: Brent Venables has done a great job with the Clemson D so far this year, but the coordinator won't have any answers for this Seminole attack.

That was a decent Maryland defense that Florida State hung 63 points on two weeks ago. Winston is evolving almost exponentially as the leader of the offense. It helps that he's surrounded by an abundance of seasoned talent. The O-line is outstanding, making sure that Winston is well-protected from the likes of DE Vic Beasley. The skill positions are deep, from Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams out of the backfield to Kenny Shaw, Rashad Greene and TE Nick O'Leary in the passing game. The ‘Noles have too many options and too much confidence for a Tiger defense that can still have problems stopping the run on occasion.

Why Clemson Might Win: Boyd in Death Valley in his final game against Florida State. That's a whole lot of intangibles for a visitor to overcome.

Winston is a prodigy, but he's never played in a game of this magnitude. Boyd has, on multiple occasions. He's grizzled, wise and not about to let down the Orange-drenched crowd at Memorial Stadium. Wasn't it just three weeks ago that Florida State allowed Boston College to score 34 points and rush for 200 yards? The Seminoles have talent on defense. They always do. However, their pass rush has yet to mature, which means Boyd will get the time he needs to find Sammy Watkins or one of his big and fast receivers. Unlike Clemson, Florida State has not faced an elite offensive attack this year.

Who To Watch Out For: The key on offense for Clemson will be RB Roderick McDowell. The Tigers absolutely, positively must establish some kind of a ground game for Boyd to maximize his potential, and keep Florida State on its heels. McDowell has been steady, but the staff is hoping he can traffic in the spectacular on a couple of carries.

- CB Lamarcus Joyner isn't just Florida State's best defensive player. He's arguably one of the two or three most underrated defensive players in the country. His battle with Watkins will be the single most interesting game-within-the-game of Week 8. Joyner is talented enough to shut down Watkins, but can P.J. Williams and the safeties handle 6-5, 200-pound Martavis Bryant?

- Look out for Timmy Jernigan, the ‘Nole nose guard with the enormous ceiling and the quick first step. He'll be lined up across from sophomore C Ryan Norton, who's about to endure the toughest test of his brief career at the pivot.

- Beasley and the rest of the Clemson D-line has been sensational in the early going. The Seminoles will want their best tackle, Cameron Erving, on Beasley at all times. If FSU decides to double the Tigers' explosive edge rusher, it'll be up to DE Corey Crawford and DT Grady Jarrett to pick up the slack.

What Will Happen: The ACC has arrived. Death Valley will be the scene of its coming-out party.

This mega-tilt really comes down to the quarterbacks, doesn't it? When all is said and done, the offenses will dictate the outcome, which means Boyd vs. Winston. Winston is a once-every-generation young quarterback, but he's at a serious disadvantage in terms of experience. Heinz Field isn't Death Valley. Bank on a classic that rivals the Georgia-Clemson opener. And bank on Boyd finding a way to lead his Tigers to another statement win, further cementing his legacy.

Prediction: Clemson 37 … Florida State 31
Line: Florida State -3 – O/U: 64
Must See Rating: (5 Bad Grandpa – 1 Vanilla Ice Goes Amish) … 5
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