Florida State and Clemson have combined for the ACC’s biggest game of the year the past several seasons and while that was not the case in 2016, the pair still put on a classic in Tallahassee on Saturday night that resulted in a 37-34 victory by the No. 3 team in the country.
Deshaun Watson looked as though he was going to make some noise in the Heisman Trophy race early on but the quarterback came down to earth as the game progressed, finishing with 378 yards and two touchdowns to balance out his two interceptions. While he was still good enough for the win thanks to some late game heroics (and added 52 yards rushing), it wasn’t quite the same signal-caller we saw dominate the ACC last year until the Tigers were finally put in a tough spot.
We did however see a version of FSU running back Dalvin Cook that could make it to New York, dazzling everybody watching in the loss with three of his four touchdowns coming in the second half — two of which were over 40 yards. He finished with 169 yards on the ground and added another 15 on a pair of catches but it just wasn’t enough in the end.
Cook essentially was the Seminoles offense against the stingy defense of Brent Venables as quarterback Deondre Francois was pressured on just about every dropback and needed some help to finish with 286 yards through the air. His offensive line had a particularly rough night, costing the team with penalties on their final drive and then allowing killer back-to-back sacks to seal the result.
The victory moves Clemson to 8-0 on the year and all but seals the ACC Atlantic title to go along with a spot in the conference title game. The Tigers are ranked in the top four of both polls but have not exactly had a smooth path to their undefeated record this year so it will be interesting to see exactly where they wind up in the very first College Football Playoff rankings that will be released on Tuesday.