Free Expert NCAA Football Picks: Clemson Tigers at Florida State Seminoles Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 9/18/2014
Clemson Tigers at Florida State Seminoles, Saturday Sept. 20, 8 p.m. ET
The defending National Champions face perhaps the biggest test of their entire season as they seek a spot in the first-ever college football playoff. It really says something about the strength of the Florida State schedule - or lack thereof - if the toughest challenge (aside, possibly, from Notre Dame) is a home game in which they are favored by more than two touchdowns against a team that was crushed by Georgia in their opener. The Seminoles face a tougher schedule than last year but still not a truly elite one - one of the realities of being in the ACC these days.
While the game isn't the most challenging that an elite team will play all year by any means, it is certainly tougher now than it could have been thanks to Florida State's Heisman-winning QB. Jameis Winston found himself in hot water after a ridiculous and immature off-field incident, and he has been suspended for the first half of this game as a result. That means that Sean McGuire, who has thrown just 26 passes during his Florida State career (completing 16, with two touchdowns and two picks), will get the start. McGuire was a lightly-regarded three-star recruit in 2012 when he joined the team - hardly who you would expect to be the backup for such a high-profile program. It will be interesting to see how the team responds to the lack of Winston in the first half. They should rally around his absence and look to shine without him, or they could use the suspension as an excuse for a flat and underwhelming first-half performance.
Clemson at Florida State Betting Storylines
Last year's edition of this game was more hyped than this year's, but it certainly didn't deliver on those high expectations - at least from Clemson's perspective. The Seminoles won 51-14 at Clemson in a game that wasn't even as close as the score - Clemson scored a final touchdown in garbage time. It was total domination - Florida State had two receivers with at least 146 yards on the day, while Clemson star QB Tajh Boyd amassed only 156 yards. It was the day - Oct. 19, 2013 - that we truly realized how good this team was and how inevitable their march to the championship was. If you want to find a bright spot in Clemson's showing - and that is very tough to do - you could say it was Cole Stoudt. The new Clemson QB played in mop up duty that day and was a competent 5-of-8 for 47 yards. He is still facing a massive challenge here, but at least he has some sense of what to expect and some confidence that he can handle it.
Against Georgia, Clemson lost 45-21, and the reason for that was singular - Georgia was able to run for 328 yards and a stunning average of eight yards per carry. It is virtually impossible to win when you perform that badly against the run. Needless to say, the Tigers are vulnerable there. The question, though, is whether Florida State can exploit it. There are certainly teams that can better take advantage of a run weakness - Georgia had the great Todd Gurley in their corner. Florida State had just 106 yards on the ground - 3.4 per carry - against Oklahoma State in their opener. They did better against Citadel, but that's Citadel, so it doesn't count. Missouri State and Texas-San Antonio both ran better against the Cowboys than Florida State did, so it wasn't just that the Seminoles ran into a stout run defense that day. This is not a team that has really relied heavily on the run for their success, and at times they have really struggled to run. Can they do better here when a strong opportunity is presented? The absence of Winston in the first half might actually help on this front - the team could look to establish the run instead of relying on McGuire's arm heavily.
Clemson Tigers at Florida State Seminoles NCAA Football Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Florida State favored by 17.5 points, and that has since fallen to 16.5. More than 80 percent of bets have been on the Tigers, so the only surprising aspect of the line movement is that it hasn't been more significant - especially in the wake of the Winston news on Tuesday. The total sits at 60 points.
Clemson Tigers at Florida State Seminoles Expert NCAA Football Predictions and Picks
I really don't like Clemson much. What I have liked less this year, though, is the Florida State mindset. In both of their opening games they have looked complacent. They have the ability to win this game by a wide margin, but I am not confident that they will do what it takes to do more than just win - especially without Winston. I don't like picking a team to lose but still cover, but that is what I am forced to do here because the line is so large. Clemson is the pick.
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