This is it, the ACC showdown we’ve been waiting for all season.
You don’t need me to tell you what sort of a showcase this is for the conference, but the spotlight is going to be brighter than ever, with ESPN’s College GameDay on the scene, setting up what should be an extraordinary football game.
Basically, it’s two red-hot offenses against two mediocre-to-bad defenses (though, Clemson do lead the nation in sacks), facing off in Memorial Stadium, one of the great venues in all of college football and the scene of an epic prime-time game (Georgia at Clemson) in the first week of the season.
We can only hope that Saturday night’s game will be half as good.
You might wonder if Clemson were looking ahead to this game last week, for they trailed Boston College into the second half and generally seemed like they were sleep-walking their way through that contest -- exactly what coaches hate to see.
Clemson’s players are saying that it might be the biggest game in the history of the ACC -- another thing coaches hate. The more pressure there is, the more teams tend to get away from football fundamentals and those teams that aren’t really ready for the pressure of a big game tend to stray.
We’ll see on Saturday night whether Clemson or Florida State are pretenders or contenders.
The Seminoles come in off a bye week, but the previous week their offense put nine touchdowns on the scoreboard whilst their defense shut out and shut down a Maryland offense that’s been pretty good so far this year. Unfortunately for FSU, they don’t have a good track record in Memorial Stadium, where they haven’t tasted victory since 2001.
Most encouragingly, Florida State won last year’s match-up on home turf in Tallahassee, overrunning Clemson (who led 27-13 at one stage) for a 49-37 victory. Go further back to 2007 and the teams have alternated victories each season coming into 2013.
This year, it’s all about the quarterbacks.
Clemson’s established star Tajh Boyd has fifteen touchdown passes this season, and Florida State’s electrifying newcomer Jameis Winston, has seventeen.
Both are brilliant players. Both are Heisman Trophy candidates. Both have strong arms and can get things done with their legs. Both can make defenses look inept. Both can win the game with a moment of unadulterated talent.
And they just may.
This looks like being one of those back and forth games where the team who has the football last wins the game.
There’ll be offense galore, because there are weapons galore for both quarterbacks to exploit. Defensive stops will probably be rare as hens teeth, but if a defensive unit can force a turnover, it might shift the balance of the game in the favour of their offense.
Winston and Boyd will have to be impeccable, right when the glare of the nation is focused on them.
It’s a tough game to pick and I give the narrow edge to Clemson, primarily because they are at home and will have a raucous home crowd to rely upon when Florida State have the football. Boyd is more tested in big-game situations than Winston, and Winston might be rattled by the parochially hostile crowd interrupting communication with his players.
If Clemson’s defensive line gets into gear, watch out. That’s not to say that the Seminoles can’t go in and steal a win, but I believe it’ll take a near-perfect effort. In that atmosphere, it’ll be tough.
Whoever wins, if the game lives up to the hype -- and I think it will -- it should be an incredible spectacle.
Clemson by a field goal.
Where to Watch? Sunday morning, 11.00am on ESPN2/ESPN2-HD