Tigers-Noles Tangle in Death Valley
Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC Tags:
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This week has taken forever to go by, and the reason is that Clemson finds itself once again in a game with some real meaning. Win, and a shot at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game is a very, very real possibility. Lose, and yet another big-game on national tv will see the Tigers take a major black-eye. This game features two unranked teams, but is a huge, huge game for both teams. Florida State has had a rough season, and a win against Clemson would be a huge morale boost for the Nole program.
As I said, the week has taken forever to go by, but now Saturday is here. I am about to go outside, grab all of the gear from the garage (tent, chairs, car flag, grill, etc...), and prepare to pack up for our 35 minute voyage over to Death Valley. The weather today will be the opposite of what it has been all season long: rain. Today is a predicted 65 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Tonite will be a frigid low 50's, possibly getting colder. It will be great football weather between two programs that each feel as they are the best in the Atlantic Division of the ACC.
Florida State has had better years, to sum up their season in the blunt obvious. They have lost to in-state foes South Florida and Miami - both in Doak Campbell Stadium. They also lost to Georgia Tech at their home stadium, and Boston College on the road. But as bad as those four losses are, FSU has the potential still to beat just about any team in the country. They showed this as they went on the road a month back and beat now top-15 BYU, 54-28.
The Noles have athletes as good as anybodys, and they have a legendary coaching staff that will now be playing inspired for long-time, soon to retire Mickey Andrews, a defensive coordinator under Bobby Bowden for 26 years. They will be playing with purpose tonite, no doubt about it. The program is embattled, and when that is the case, you never what kind of animal will be coming out of the locker room.
For Clemson, the plan to an ACC Title game is a simple one - win and you go. The Tigers now have to capatilize on the opportunity. They have a nasty defense, a Heisman caliber player on offense, and what is surely to be one of Death Valley's best crowds in years as their weapons in this game. All three must come together for this team to win this game.
Everyon knows the obvious storylines of CJ Spiller and his capabilties, the fact that Da'Quan Bowers is injured and wont play for Clemson, and the announcemement made by FSU's Mickey Andrews that he will retire at season's end. But the one thing that I think will make the difference in this game is the play of Clemson safety De'Andre McDaniel.
McDaniel is one of the top 5 players on either team, and will be roaming the Clemson secondary looking to pick off some of Christian Ponder's passes. Ponder has been known to throw it quite a bit, and McDaniel leads the country in Interceptions with 7. If CU can slow down the run - which they should be able to with a solid d-line, even minus Bowers - then Ponder will start slinging it downfield, and with each toss, McDaniel will be lurking.
This game is going to to be a battle. As a Clemson fan, I am a combined nervous and excited. An ACC crown is the ultimate goal, and so essentially this is a playoff game. Win, and we are still completely alive to make Tampa and control our destiny. Lose, and all that is out of the window almost certainly. And we face an opponent that is as unpredictable as it gets. Their losses are by an average of 6.5 points, so they have yet to be run off of the field by anyone. FSU can play when they want to, and I get the feeling that tonite they are really going to want to.
I have to go get the orange shirt out, put an iron to it, and hop in the shower. The longest week in a long, long time has come to an end. Gameday is here, and Death Valley will be on fire tonite! Feeding off of an unreal crowd, my prediction is that Dabo has these guys playing like they have never played before. FSU is inspired, but we are, too. And I think this year, we have a better team to go with it.....Clemson, 33-20.
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