This script has been written many times, but taking advantage of it never gets old. That is, Florida State pulling its annual routine of blowout wins over cupcake opponents in September, only to get exposed in the meat of the schedule.
The Seminoles have not won at Clemson since 2001, and during coach Jimbo Fisher’s four-year tenure, they have lost five of seven games against ranked opponents. Nevertheless, No. 5 Florida State is a 3-point favorite for tonight’s showdown in Death Valley.
No. 3 Clemson fell victim to a look-ahead situation in last week’s noncovering 24-14 victory over Boston College. But that result has no relevance except for the fact it gives us a better number for the Tigers, who have won 11 consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference games by double-digit margins since losing in Tallahassee last season.
Remember, the LVH sports book posted Clemson as a 1-point favorite in this matchup previous to last weekend’s games.
Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston has been turning heads with stellar play. The redshirt freshman has a 17-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. But Winston’s numbers have been produced against subpar squads such as Bethune-Cookman, Boston College and UNR.
Winston has two road wins to his credit, but he hasn’t been into the type of raucous environment waiting on him at Clemson, and he hasn’t faced a defense like this.
In its second season under former Oklahoma coordinator Brent Venables, Clemson’s defense is vastly improved. This unit is ranked ninth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 16.2 points per game. Winston will be going against a team with a fierce pass rush.
There is another quarterback in this game, and his name is Tajh Boyd, the Tigers’ all-time leading passer. Boyd, who has five rushing scores, has spread his 15 touchdown passes around to 11 receivers. His favorite target is Sammy Watkins, one of the nation’s fastest players.
Behind big plays from Boyd and Watkins, I like Clemson to win.
Four more plays for today (home team in CAPS):
■ Oregon State (-10½) over CALIFORNIA — I made the Beavers 19-point favorites. Sean Mannion is putting up Heisman-like numbers with 25 touchdown passes compared with three interceptions. Mannion leads the nation in passing yards (2,511), and Brandin Cooks is pacing the country in receiving yards. Cal has compiled a 2-11 spread record in its past 13 games as a home underdog. The Bears are the only 0-6 ATS team in America, and their defense is decimated by injuries.
■ South Carolina (-7) over TENNESSEE — The Gamecocks were the biggest winners last weekend. For starters, they smashed Arkansas 52-7 on the road. Most important, Georgia lost and therefore does not have a two-game lead over South Carolina anymore (by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker). Forget about the production or lack thereof from defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, because this team is all about Connor Shaw and Mike Davis. Shaw has 10 touchdown passes without an interception, and Davis leads the Southeastern Conference in rushing.
■ Georgia-VANDERBILT (Over 62) — The “over” is 6-0 in Georgia games and has cashed at a 4-2 clip for Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs’ games have played to an average of 71.2 points. The Commodores’ past two outings produced combined scores of 79 and 76 points. Look for both quarterbacks — Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Vanderbilt’s Austyn Carta-Samuels — to have big games.
■ Arkansas-ALABAMA (Over 48½) — The Razorbacks allowed 52 points to South Carolina, and the Crimson Tide might score more than that behind quarterback AJ McCarron and a strong running attack.
Last week: 2-3 against the spread
Brian Edwards of Sportsmemo.com and BrianEdwardsSports.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.