For many, Clemson Football is entering the 2023-24 season as underdogs in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time in many years.
Part of the reason is that several observers believe the Tigers are in decline. Clemson hasn’t been selected to be in the College Football Playoff in the past two seasons. Their lengthy home winning streak was ended by South Carolina last November.
The other side of the coin is that for the first time in several seasons, observers believe there is a legitimate pre-season contender who can beat out the Tigers. Florida State made considerable improvements from previous seasons to finish 10-3 in 2022.
With quarterback Jordan Travis and defensive end Jared Verse returning, many ‘way too early’ polls have the Seminoles ranked ahead of Clemson. The earliest metrics systems give the Seminoles the edge too. SP+ puts FSU one spot ahead of Clemson. Tigers fans see Florida State as the biggest challenge to the Tigers in 2023.
Considering the early momentum seems to be favoring the Seminoles in 2023, it’s interesting that the earliest predictions from oddsmakers favor the Tigers.
Though it is still ‘way too early’, Clemson is a 3-point favorite against Florida State, and there are a few reasons for this.
The game will be played in Death Valley: While Clemson’s 40-game winning streak is over, Clemson Memorial Stadium still presents a major challenge to opponents. It is reasonable to believe that Tiger fans will fill the stands when FSU visits on September 23rd. It will likely be a night game. College Gameday might be hosted on Bowman Field. Everything is pointing to an atmosphere that will be very difficult for the road team. Naysayers and haters might be dismissing Clemson’s advantage at home because of a one point loss, but oddsmakers aren’t likely to overlook it.
Florida State lost against their best opponents from 2022: While the Seminoles were considerably improved over 2021, they still didn’t achieve more than the Tigers in 2022. The Seminoles still lost three games in 2022 against arguably the best teams they faced: Clemson, Wake Forest, and NC State.
The best win on their schedule was against LSU on a neutral field by one point. Most observers would acknowledge that LSU, who was playing their first game under a new coaching staff, didn’t peak until later in the season. Conversely, FSU’s last regular season opponent, Florida, was 6-6 in the regular season and never capitalized on their early momentum from a win over Utah.
Clemson addressed their biggest liabilities: Even though the Tiger defense wasn’t quite as good as they were in 2021, it was the offense that presented the biggest challenges to Clemson in 2022. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei started the season well, but a bad day against Syracuse damaged his confidence and he wasn’t the same for the rest of the season.
Playcalling was also inconsistent under first-year offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter. The recurring theme of Clemson’s best offensive weapons, the running backs, not getting the ball led to stagnant offenses and turnovers.
More believe the changes to Clemson Football this offseason will be positives than negatives
The Tigers decided to promote Cade Klubnik to starting quarterback late in the season and parted ways with Streeter after the season. Most observers have noted that new coordinator Garrett Riley should clear up the Tigers’ playcalling woes and be a big boost for Klubnik’s development.
Transfers don’t always work out: Florida State has done a very good job of utilizing the transfer portal over the last few seasons. This offseason was no exception. The Seminoles brought in tight end Jaheim Bell from South Carolina. They added several players, including cornerback Fentrell Cypress, to their defense.
While Florida State’s success with transfers (like Verse) suggests they have the core competency to use the portal correctly, transfers are always a gamble. Some work out, but some don’t. A sportswriter who is making a personal ‘way too early’ ranking may defer to FSU’s past success as an indicator that this offseason’s additions will yield dividends. A metric’s creator may simply plug in a transfer’s productivity at another school (for other coaches in other schemes) and add it to their new school.
Oddsmakers likely look at utilizing the portal as heavily as Florida State does as introducing a measure of unpredictability. Unpredictability usually results in conservative predictions. Given the other factors presented why the odds might favor the Tigers, it’s reasonable to assume oddsmakers might not be as likely as other observers to assume the Seminoles’ additions will get them over the hump.
However, as we always acknowledge here on Rubbing the Rock:
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change
…so stay tuned.