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Friday predictions

We gathered a smattering of opinions on Saturday night’s game. Here’s the rundown:

Will Clemson unveil a few new wrinkles with Sammy Watkins?

Cory Fravel, Clemson247

Much of the talk of this game I've heard has been how "dominant" Florida State is, "they're back" and the "unstoppable" defense. The notion that Florida State is back and dominate couldn't be further from the truth. I think I'll wait and award them that when I have a body of work for a whole season or perhaps when the Seminoles go to BCS game.

Saturday's night game is the first ACC match-up between two top-10 teams in five years. Florida State's defense has been the topic of discussion this week as they lead the nation in five defensive categories. Florida State presents a defensive line that can put a lot of stress on Clemson's offensive line. It will be interesting to watch how Florida State secondary defends the Clemson wide receivers. With attention on Sammy Watkins, I expect Nuk Hopkins to have a big game. Watch the Chad to unveil the "Justin Blackmon" package Saturday night for Sammy Watkins.

Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel can put a lot of pressure on Clemson with option game. Clemson's secondary has been vulnerable at times this year and the Seminoles’ fast athletic receivers will have to be accounted for at all times. Clemson's defensive line will have to play better than it has thus far to keep the Seminoles run game in check.

Clemson comes in double-digit underdogs for the first time since 2004 and has nothing to lose in this game as they are expected to lose. Florida State on the other hand has everything to lose and there is a lot of pressure here to win this game. Saturday night I think you see Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables throw out some wrinkles Florida State isn't expecting. In a playcalling match-up I'll take Venables over head coach/OC Jimbo Fisher any night. Morris lives for these games and loves catching defensive coordinators off-guard.

Clemson's backed in a corner and that is an intangible with this team. They play better that way. This is the same group on offense that put up numbers on Florida State last year; is there any reason to believe they have regressed? Saturday night the Venables wrinkles, the Chad Morris show and the Dabo Swinney motivation guru show will leave Doak silent and somber.

Clemson 31-27

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Jody Whitt, Clemson247

The question of the week has been, "Is Florida State back?", and the Seminoles get a chance to answer just that against a formidable Clemson team this Saturday in Doak Campbell. The headlining match-up in this game is Clemson's explosive offense versus Florida State's top-rated defense, a unit that is among the best Clemson has seen in recent years.

However, the match-up that intrigues me, and likely determines the outcome of the game, is Florida State's offense against Clemson's defense. Through three games, the EJ Manual-led Seminoles have predictably lit up the sisters of the poor, while Clemson has looked less that dominant over a bad Auburn team and two lesser opponents.

Based on these games, we know Clemson's defense is a work in progress, but is Florida State's offense potent enough to take advantage, and ultimately outscore Clemson? I'm betting yes, and it may not even be that close. If this game were played later in the season, when Clemson's defense has a chance to improve, this is likely a close, fourth quarter game. Now, it looks like a reasonably comfortable Seminoles victory.

Florida State 38-23

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”Coach Rob,” Clemson247 poster

There is a ton of pressure on FSU to perform. Too much. Venables will be able to scheme to get enough stops, and force Manuel to try to beat us with his arm. Andre Ellington and Tajh Boyd are effective running the ball on first down, allowing Morris to open up the playbook. Chandler Catanzaro seals it with a late field goal

Clemson 38-28

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Ingram Smith, CSS

It is the match-up that this game should be. Clemson and Florida State appear as though they positioned themselves to be the class of the ACC moving forward and certainly in the Atlantic division.

From the Florida State perspective, I can tell you this is the first game where the fan base is very much starting to realize something myself and others have been saying for a couple years now -- Clemson is your second biggest rival. In the modern, resource-leveraged world of college football I have a hard time seeing the University of Miami being competitive on the highest level moving forward. Clemson has the resources, tradition and is showing an institutional commitment to football that will serve them well in a conference where few institutions can make similar claims.

I think when a lot of people look back at last year’s game they talk about injuries that FSU sustained in the previous week's game against then-No. 1 ranked Oklahoma as having an impact on the outcome. In my opinion, there may some validity to this conversation, although it was not the injury to EJ Manuel that was detrimental to FSU as many people think. Florida State played Clemson without Greg Reid last year and while Greg was a solid corner back was missed in the game, the bigger implication was the impact it had on FSU's ability to play their nickel package.

FSU was forced to play in a 4-3 far more than they wanted to last year and when they did go to nickel, often time the nickel back was LB Christian Jones. Jones is as talented as anyone you will see on the field Saturday night, not named Sammy Watkins, but he is not the person you want playing as a fifth defensive back. This year I expect FSU to play nickel defense as their base coverage against a team that has the best skill players in the conference (and maybe the country).

I think FSU will be able to limit Clemson's big plays with a defense that is exceptionally talented along the defensive line. Florida State, at least in my opinion, is better along both lines of scrimmage and in the end I think that is what determines the outcome of this game.

FSU 34-21

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