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No. 4 Clemson clinches third straight ACC Atlantic crown with win over Florida State

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It was much more difficult than it should have been, but it was a win. No. 4 Clemson topped Florida State 31-14 to claim the ACC Atlantic Division championship and take a step forward toward defending its national championship.

Clemson claimed a 17-0 halftime lead that could have been 28-0 without a pair of Kelly Bryant fumbles, and then found itself fending off an upset bid in the tail end of the fourth quarter.

With the score still 17-0 late in the third quarter, Florida State got on the board with a 7-play, 90-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a 3-yard Jacques Patrick run. After three straight punts, Florida State scored again, this time on a perfectly executed reverse-flea flicker from Blackman to tight end Ryan Izzo who bobbed and weaved his way for a 60-yard score, pulling the Seminoles within 17-14 with 8:53 to play in the game.

And then Bryant (151 passing yards, 60 rushing yards) fumbled — his third of the game — on Clemson’s next touch, giving Florida State the ball at the Clemson 40 with 6:36 to play.

However, Blackman immediately gave the ball right back. Florida State’s next snap was an interception to Clemson’s Van Smith on a throw where Smith was the only player in the picture. He returned the ball 38 yards to the FSU 44, and a rejuvenated Clemson offense sprung to life with a 6-play touchdown drive that killed half the remaining clock and Florida State’s chances of completing the comeback. Adam Choice added a punctuation mark score with 35 seconds remaining.

Both of Clemson’s first two touchdowns came with help from Florida State (3-6, 3-5 ACC). The first was set up by a fumble by Blackman (12-of-31 passing for 202 yards with one touchdown and one interception, five sacks), which Clemson’s Tre Lamar recovered at the FSU 20-yard line. Bryant rushed in from two yards out to put the Tigers up at the 2:51 mark of the first quarter.

Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) threatened to add a second score midway through the second quarter, but Travis Feaster fumbled the ball at the FSU 1, and Demarcus Christmas hopped on the ball for Florida State. However, Clemson forced a punt from inside the Florida State end zone, and Ray Ray McCloud returned the boot 35 yards to the FSU 28. Travis Etienne raced in for Clemson’s second score on play later.

Bryant nearly gave away another red zone fumble on Clemson’s final drive of the half, with three Florida State defenders touching a loose football inside the FSU 10. But Bryant out-hustled all three of them to get the ball back, allowing Alex Spence to bang in a 26-yard field goal with 1:39 left before halftime.

The win pushes Clemson into the ACC Championship for the third consecutive year — matching 2012-14 Florida State for the longest appearance streak in the 13-year history of the game — and the fifth time overall, which ties Florida State for the second most in the ACC. (Virginia Tech leads the league with six division titles.) All five trips have come under Dabo Swinney. The Tigers have won their last three ACC title game appearances.

Not coincidentally, the win also gives Clemson three straight victories over Florida State. That matches the Tigers’ longest winning streak over the ‘Noles, though the two ACC Atlantic titans did not play regularly until Florida State joined the ACC in 1992. (Florida State leads the all-time series, 20-11.) The victory also pushes Swinney above .500 (5-4) against Florida State since obtaining the full-time head coaching job in 2009.

Of course, Clemson’s program has progressed well beyond simply Florida State and winning their division. The Tigers are in the midst of defending their College Football Playoff championship, and now three more wins separate them from a third straight CFP berth.

Florida State, meanwhile, now must reel off wins over Delaware State, Florida and Louisiana-Monroe to keep its FBS-leading 35-year bowl streak alive.

Clemson outclassing Florida State through one half

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Any hope that the appearance of Clemson on the other side of the line of scrimmage would inspire a Florida State-like performance from these underachieving Seminoles has gone unfulfilled through one half in Death Valley East. Clemson holds a 17-0 lead over Florida State at the break.

Both of Clemson’s scores came with help from Florida State. The first was set up by a fumble by Florida State quarterback James Blackman, which Clemson’s Tre Lamar recovered at the FSU 20-yard line. Kelly Bryant rushed in from two yards out to put the Tigers up at the 2:51 mark of the first quarter.

Clemson threatened to add a second score midway through the second quarter, but Travis Feaster fumbled the ball at the FSU 1, and Demarcus Christmas hopped on the ball for Florida State. However, Clemson forced a punt from inside the Florida State end zone, and Ray Ray McCloud returned the boot 35 yards to the FSU 28. Travis Etienne raced in for Clemson’s second score on play later.

Bryant nearly gave away another red zone fumble on Clemson’s final drive of the half, with three Florida State defenders touching a loose football inside the FSU 10. But Bryant out-hustled all three of them to get the ball back, allowing Alex Spence to bang in a 26-yard field goal with 1:39 left before the break.

Bryant completed 12-of-15 passes in the half, but for just 80 yards. He leads the club with 13 carries for 41 yards and a score, and as a team Clemson has rushed 26 times for 104 yards.

Blackman battled through a miserable half, completing 3-of-11 passes for 23 yards while being credited with minus-23 rushing yards with a fumble on five carries. Cam Akers was the lone bright spot for the Seminoles’ offense with 40 yards on nine carries. All in all, Florida State gained 42 yards and achieved three first downs in the half.

Florida State will receive to start the second half.

Younger brother of Florida State’s all-time leading rusher spurns Seminoles to commit to Georgia

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Florida State and Jimbo Fisher’s struggles are apparently not being confined to the gridiron and are extending onto the recruiting trail too.

The Seminoles were one of several schools to find out where Miami (Fla.) Central HS running back James Cook — the younger brother of FSU’s all-time leading rusher (and current Minnesota Viking) Dalvin Cook — would be playing college football on Thursday night and let’s just say that he won’t be winding up in Tallahassee to follow in big brother’s footsteps:

Cook is considered to be a four-star recruit by 247Sports and ranked as the third-best tailback in the country. He joins what is now considered to be a top five class for the Bulldogs in the 2018 cycle.

What makes things really interesting is that the younger Cook was at one point committed to Florida State as a junior for several months. However he decommitted  from the school in early July, and looked closely at ACC rival Louisville before winding up with Kirby Smart in Athens. He should help cushion the blow of losing Sony Michel and Nick Chubb after this year.

FSU is still okay even without Cook’s commitment though, as Jacques Patrick likely returns as a senior next season and the team’s current leading rusher, Cam Akerswill just be a sophomore.

Florida State WR George Campbell out for the year

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The injury bug has not been kind to Florida State this season, and it is not done yet. On Wednesday, Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher announced another player is going to be out for the rest of the season with wide receiver George Campbell as he focuses on a nagging muscle injury.

Campbell, a redshirt sophomore, has played in four games this season and has six catches for 122 yards. He has not played in either of the last two games for Florida State and has just two catches since September 23 in a loss to NC State. Campbell had been listed second on the depth chart behind Auden Tate, the leading receiver for Florida State, coming into this weekend.

No. 13 Miami scores first win over Florida State since 2009 with late heroics

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It was a long time coming, but No. 13 Miami (4-0, 2-0 ACC) finally has a win over Florida State (1-3, 1-2 ACC) for the first time since 2009. In a game that featured four lead changes in the final half of the fourth quarter, it was Miami with the last laugh with Darrell Langham hauling in a miraculous catch for a 23-yard touchdown pass from Malik Rosier to give the Hurricanes the 24-20 lead, and as it turned out, the win.

The touchdown would be reviewed by the replay officials to determine if Langham’s knee touched the ground prior to the ball crossing the goal line. Had the replay officials had the benefit of using goal-line cameras (it’s 2017, why is this not automatic at this point?), then there is a chance to ball would have been marked shy of the end zone. But because that angle was not available, it remains a guessing game as to how the replay would have played out. And if the ball had been marked short, Miami might have had one chance for the endzone before having to try for a game-tying field goal. As it turns out, the replay upheld the call on the field (officially, the call on the field was not confirmed, but ruled the play stands) and Miami prevented Florida State from returning the ensuing kickoff for a score in the final seconds.

After Miami took a 17-13 lead on a Braxton Berrios touchdown catch in the back of the endzone, James Blackman led the Florida State offense down the field without any fear. Blackman was five-for-five on the late fourth quarter possession, including a 20-yard pass to Auden Tate for the touchdown after it appeared Tate slipped by a couple of confused Miami defenders. The touchdown gave Florida State the 20-17 lead with just under 90 seconds to play in the game.

Miami opened the second half of the game by marching 62 yards on 12 plays to score a game-tying field goal by Michael Badgley. After picking off Florida State quarterback James Blackman on FSU’s first play of the ensuing possession, Miami threatened once again but Malik Rosier had a 2nd down pass from the 32-yard line picked off by Stanford Samuels III. Miami’s defense was locked in though and forced a quick three-and-out, and after a tremendous return by Braxton Berrios to the Florida State 21-yard line, Rosier made up for his earlier turnover with a quick strike to Berrios for the first touchdown of the game and the 10-3 lead.

Florida State tied the game in the fourth quarter with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Izzo and the Seminoles took a 13-10 lead on their next possession with a Ricky Aguayo field goal from 38 yards out. But Miami answered with a go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing possession as the teams got set to exchange the lead four times in the final minutes.

Miami remains undefeated now and is looking like a team that may have what it needs to finally reach the ACC Championship Game, but back-to-back games against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame in November will probably determine one way or the other if Miami should be thrown in the conversation for the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, Florida State’s struggles are starting to really grow concerning.

This marked the first time Jimbo Fisher lost a game against Miami as the head coach of Florida State. Under Fisher, Florida State was 15-1 against FBS-level competition from the state of Florida before today, with the only other loss coming against Florida in 2012. This was Miami’s first win against Florida State since 2009, when Bobby Bowden was the head coach of the Seminoles.

Next up for Florida State is a road trip to Durham, North Carolina next week to play Duke. The Blue Devils have lost back-to-back games against Miami and Virginia and will be hoping not to fall in a deeper hole in the Coastal Division next week.  Miami will return home for a key Coastal Division showdown with Georgia Tech. The Yellow-Jackets are 2-0 in ACC play and will be coming off a bye week to prepare for the Hurricanes.