CLEMSON — Here is how No. 3 Clemson, holding down the top spot in this season’s first College Football Playoff standings, can end a three-game losing streak to Florida State and clinch the ACC Atlantic Division title Saturday at Memorial Stadium:
Everett Golson has not played well on the road for either Notre Dame or Florida State, though he gave the Irish a chance to win in Tallahassee last year. Sean Maguire has thrown a career total of five passes outside Doak Campbell Stadium, and just two on the road in a 2013 game at Wake Forest. Jameis Winston, these guys are not. It’s up to a better Clemson defense than the Tigers had in 2013 to keep the Seminoles well below 51 points.
There is not much more to say to an offense responsible for four consecutive 500-yard games and a couple of 50-point efforts on the road the past two weeks. The obvious advice is to put seven on the board instead of settling for field goals — especially since, while acknowledging the guilty party was Ammon Lakip and not Greg Huegel, Clemson found out how dangerous that can be in last year’s FSU loss.
Clemson is 31-2 at home since the start of 2011. Clemson is the better team on the field. Clemson is a 12-point favorite for a reason. So there is no reason for the Tigers to make life easy for the Seminoles, be it via long kick returns or blown coverages or unnecessary penalties or any other charitable donations to Florida State.
Florida State has nothing to lose, in the sense not many folks think FSU will walk out of Clemson a victor. Clemson, conversely, bears the pressure of being No. 1. If Dabo Swinney still has his thumbprint on the Tigers’ locker room, they’ll play free and fast and loose and, well, like a team deserving of a College Football Playoff berth instead of a team just hoping to prove it can end FSU’s ACC dominance.
Clemson 31, Florida State 23
— Aaron Brenner