Clemson & Florida State In Tallahassee For Top 10 Tilt
By: Willie Bee
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
A collision of top-10 teams is always a big deal, and it's magnified even further when that contest pits conference rivals who both bring unbeaten records into the affair.
That's the backdrop for Saturday night's huge ACC showdown in Tallahassee where the Florida State Seminoles are waiting for the Clemson Tigers. It's the ninth time a pair of Atlantic Coast squads ranked in the top 10 have met, and juicing it up even more is it will very likely decide the Atlantic Division of the conference less than a month into the 2012 college football betting campaign.
No wonder ABC wanted this for its Week 4 prime-time broadcast that begins at 8:00 p.m. (ET). The Seminoles opened as 12-point favorites, but the Don Best Pro Odds now show them as full 2-TD chalk as of midday Wednesday. Saturday's total started at 55½ before getting a boost to 57 in early wagering.
Clemson is ranked ninth and 10th by the coaches and AP polls respectively while Florida State comes in No. 4 in both. Don Best's ratings think a little more highly of the 'Noles at No. 3 in the latest Linemakers Poll, and isn't so high on the Tigers at No. 17.
Jimbo Fisher has the luxury of playing in front of the home crowd for a fourth consecutive game, and if Florida State's first three efforts at Doak Campbell Stadium are any indication, that 14-point spread should be covered before the game moves too deep into the second quarter. The Seminoles have annihilated their first three opponents by a combined 176-3 score, including last week's ACC opener against Wake Forest which marked the second consecutive shutout in a 55-0 laugher.
Granted, the first two warm-ups vs. Murray State and Savannah State were just that, warm-ups against a couple of FCS opponents. The Seminoles officially closed as 67-point favorites two weeks ago against Savannah State who was the replacement for West Virginia on this year's slate, and still almost covered that spread despite the game ending in the third quarter due to bad storms in the Tallahassee area. Most college football bettors got their money back when the game failed to at least go 55 minutes on the clock, a clock that officials ran continuously starting in the second quarter.
You can discount both of those games, but there's no overlooking what the Seminoles did to the Demon Deacons this past Saturday. It was a case of men against boys as FSU raced to a 38-zip lead at the half and rolled up more than 700 yards of all-purpose yardage against a Wake Forest squad that could muster a little more than 225, much of that coming on kickoff returns after Seminole touchdowns.
All of those stats can be thrown out the window for this week's game, however, and there's little chance FSU is thinking how easy things have been and are instead more likely to be conjuring revenge against Clemson. The Tigers scored a huge 35-30 win at home just about a year ago to really jumpstart their eventual ACC Championship, and it's a series they have owned in recent years, both on the scoreboard and at the window. Clemson is 5-2 the past seven times the teams have met, and backers have cashed six of those games. This is the biggest spread, however, since 2004 when Florida State eked out a 41-22 cover at home as 17½-point chalk. Since then, no team has been laying more than 8½.
Saturday will be Florida State's first of four high-profile opportunities to show it is a legitimate BCS title contender, and if there's a concern, it's how the Seminoles will adjust to such a huge step-up in competition. Clemson hasn't exactly faced a real tough schedule itself with a close win in Atlanta over Auburn to open the schedule followed up with a nice win over a decent Ball State team and a glorified scrimmage with Furman.
Quarterbacks Tajh Boyd for the Tigers and FSU's EJ Manuel will understandably get the bulk of the hype. Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins will also get some pub along with the backfield combo of Chris Thompson and James Wilder Jr. for the 'Noles. It's the other side of the ball on both sides that will decide it, however, and Florida State's defense is definitely the better of the two.
Sunny skies and warm temps are in the Tallahassee forecast for Saturday. Afternoon highs should reach close to 90 before dropping to around 80 for the kickoff.