Clemson and Florida State are in position to win out in November, but who has the best chance to finish 11-1?
Heather and I have put our sparring gloves on to duke this one out.
Heather says: Clemson
When South Carolina got pummeled by Florida, 44-11, things started to look good for Clemson.
When South Carolina lost standout running back Marcus Lattimore to a gruesome knee injury, it was devastating to the Gamecocks’ offense, and heartbreaking for Lattimore. My guess is that most Clemson players – at least the true competitors - would rather brag about a win over their rival with Lattimore in the lineup.
Even with Lattimore sidelined, though, South Carolina will still be the toughest opponent remaining on Clemson’s schedule. South Carolina, though, is not undefeated anymore. And Clemson isn’t the Clemson you’re used to.
This one will finish the season with only one loss.
Even some of the most loyal Clemson fans fear their team “pulling a Clemson,” but fear not: It’s not gonna happen. The Tigers won’t lose this weekend to an overmatched Duke team. They certainly won’t lose at home to Maryland’s 15th-string quarterback. They won’t lose to NC State in Death Valley after what happened last year.
And Dabo Swinney will not lose to Steve Spurrier again.
With two losses, both on the road to LSU and Florida, South Carolina has nothing to be ashamed of this year. It does prove, however, that the Gamecocks aren’t invincible. As long as Clemson’s offensive line can keep Jadeveon Clowney out of the Tigers’ backfield and protect quarterback Tajh Boyd, Clemson should win. Clemson has enough playmakers on offense to win, as long as it doesn’t turn the ball over and Boyd stays on his feet.
Florida State is also good enough to win out, but considering the Noles still have to travel to Blacksburg for a Thursday night game and have to face Florida, the odds of Florida State “pulling a Florida State” seem better than Clemson, well, you know …
Andrea says: Florida State
Back when we made our bold second-half predictions, I said Florida State would run the table and finish 11-1.
I am beginning to look more and more like a genius. Because with three games left in the season, I am more convinced than ever the Seminoles are going to win out, and get back to the ACC championship game.
First, look at the schedule. The toughest remaining ACC game is next Thursday night at Virginia Tech. This would be a much tougher game if the Hokies were the same team that has dominated Coastal Division play. But they are not even close. Virginia Tech is 4-4 and fighting with Duke and Miami for a chance to play in the ACC title game. The Hokies have not been able to find any consistency in their running game, and Logan Thomas has not lived up to preseason expectations. The defense has improved of late, but has not lived up to the high standards that we have all come to expect from a Bud Foster coached group.
After the Hokies, Florida State plays at Maryland. As Heather noted above, that team is on its 156th-starting quarterback this season. Mark the W. The finale will be a doozy, against in-state rival Florida. The Gators, however, have problems of their own. Did anybody see their performance against Georgia last week? Six turnovers are not going to win you many games. Florida will be the toughest out left, no question, but the Gators remain an enigma on offense.
Second, look at the way EJ Manuel is playing. He is not putting his team in bad situations. He is doing a good job with his decision making and taking care of the football. He has gotten some big plays out of his receivers and running backs as well. When this group is on, it is fun to watch.
Finally, look at the Florida State defense. This is the No. 2 group in the nation -- far better than what Clemson has. The Noles should be able to slow down the offenses remaining on the schedule. For all these reasons, Florida State is the better pick to win out the rest of the way.