TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – The eyes of the college football world will be focused squarely on Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday night when the fourth-ranked Florida State Seminoles play host to the tenth-ranked Clemson Tigers.
The rare ACC matchup of undefeated teams gives both teams a chance to make a national statement that one or the other should be a serious contender for the BCS national championship game set to be held in Miami next January.
For Florida State, it’s the first true test of the team this season. FSU cruised through two Football Championship Subdivision schools and absolutely crushed Wake Forest last Saturday 52-0. The most telling FSU stat after the first three games: the Noles defense is allowing 1 point per game.
Clemson has had a little more difficult time after opening the season against the SEC’s Auburn Tigers. But even without All-American wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the Tigers took out the SEC West former power 26-19. Since then Clemson routed both Ball State and Furman in consecutive weeks.
But the game is an absolute must-win for Florida State on a national scale.
For the last several years, FSU has teased with being ready to sit back atop the perch at the top of the college football world. But stumbles, whether they be against Wake Forest, Clemson, or Oklahoma have all served to keep Noles fans waiting for that breakthrough victory.
Saturday’s game against Clemson gives the Noles the victory to be taken seriously as a top five team. The Seminoles were once a lock in the top four, finishing there in every season from 1987-2000 and winning two national championships.
This year’s version of the Seminoles under head coach Jimbo Fisher is ranked fourth, which is the first time in seven years the Noles have reached that high in the polls. FSU is also 3-5 for the first time since 2005.
For the ACC, nothing could be better than to see Florida State dominate Clemson or vice-versa on national television. It would finally give the conference that has struggled to gain BCS relevance a team that could be a legit national championship contender.
Florida State could realistically get penciled into the BCS with a victory over Clemson Saturday night. The Seminoles will only have two real tests the rest of the season, November 8th at Virginia Tech and November 24th versus the Florida Gators.
Outside of those two games, and remember Va. Tech lost to a woeful Pittsburgh team last weekend, the Noles should be heavy favorites in every game.
It’s not for a lack of talent that Florida State hasn’t risen back to the top. The past three years the Noles have put together top five recruiting classes and landed the number one player in the nation in 2011. The defensive line is deep enough that it can withstand losing an All-American to a season-ending injury and keep humming along.
Clemson is also battling to bring its image back. Last season, Clemson was a fast-riser that ended the season in the Orange Bowl with an epic thud. In that Orange Bowl game, Clemson gave up 70 points to the West Virginia Mountaineers and looked like they didn’t belong on the same field as WVU.
So Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney went out and hired a top defensive mind in Brent Venables to coordinate the defense. Venables spent the last several years as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, under Bob Stoops, who coincidentally is the brother of FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.
FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel said recently the team has only used about 3-4 percent of its offensive playbook through the first three games. That will have to change on Saturday because Venables will throw the proverbial kitchen sink at FSU to stop the Noles in their tracks.
The game at Doak Campbell Stadium was completely sold out as of Thursday morning and the crowd figures to be rocking from the first time commentator Brent Musberger says, “You are looking live….”
With a victory over Clemson, FSU can declare itself back and will likely get a generous boost in the national rankings. A loss by FSU will once again cast doubt on when/if the team can ever achieve the success it once enjoyed at the top of the BCS.