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October 19, 2013
All No. 5 Florida State (5-0) has to do now is beat No. 3 Clemson (6-0) at Death Valley.
The meaning of Saturday's game reaches beyond winner and loser. Whichever team wins will be a bona fide national contender, the first the ACC has had in some years. That alone makes Saturday arguably the biggest game in ACC football history, or at least on any shortlist. The only thing left is to actually play the game.
For Florida State, a win means a return to the national spotlight on a level not seen since the 1990s, and it could be the biggest and most important feather in coach Jimbo Fisher's hat so far. It would likely also vault redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston into the forefront of the Heisman trophy race.
For Clemson, a win Saturday would seem to follow the natural progression of the program's rise to prominence in the past few years. Clemson has recruited well and played well, and already has a mammoth win against Georgia to kick off the season. Holding firm on its home turf would send a message than the Tigers truly deserve to be on the same field with Oregon and Alabama.
It would also potentially put Tajh Boyd into the lead for the Heisman trophy as well, continuing his exceptional season so far.
FSU safety Lamarcus Joyner put it best:
"It's a test of manhood," Joyner said.
Joyner was referencing the FSU secondary's job of slowing down Boyd and Sammy Watkins, but the sentiment is applicable to the entire game. Clemson should provide far and away the toughest test of every aspect of FSU's team this season. Boyd and Chad Morris run a prolific offense that's lit up some talented defenses for big numbers. Plus, Clemson's Vic Beasley leads the nation in sacks while the Tigers lead the country in team sacks and tackles for loss. And Death Valley will be more hostile than anything FSU has faced this season. In an effort to simulate the noise, FSU pumped in amplified crowd noise through speakers during practice this week. The sound was audible all over campus.
"All the noise stuff - the way we communicate on the field and thew ay we do things, I really don't think that's going to be a big factor," Winston said. "From a momentum standpoint, if the crowd gets into it and their players get pumped up that probably will be a big factor."
Crowd noise or no, Florida State, despite being a three-point favorite on the road doesn't appear to feel much pressure.
"How they go about their business, their efficiency, the questions they ask, their temperament," Fisher said. "You are around these kids so much. I feel comfortable the way they handled themselves."
Sophomore linebacker Terrance Smith said it's no secret as to why: It's a lot easier to stay focused when it's clear everything is at stake.
"I think it creates more focus when you know it's so much on the line and it can really, really change how everything goes," Smith said. "It's either show up or get shown out."
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