College Football Preview: Clemson Itching for Return to Top of Polls

The Clemson Tigers escaped Chapel Hill two weeks ago with a win, but by the narrowest of margins, allowing the Alabama Crimson Tide to slide back in to the top spot of the college football national rankings. This week the Tigers hope to sway a few of their erstwhile voters as they host the Florida Seminoles. Elsewhere, LSU QB Joe Burrow will try to get back on the Heisman track in a showdown between two nationally ranked undefeatoed teams, as LSU takes on the Florida Gators.

South Carolina Gamecocks (2-3) at #3 Georgia (5-0)
Noon ET on ESPN
Sure, the Gamecocks have a losing record, but they’ve played one of the toughest schedules in the land, falling to Alabama, North Carolina and Missouri. Two weeks ago they got 100+ rushing yards from both Tavien Feaster and Rico Dowdle in a 24-7 defeat of Kentucky. The Bulldogs just keep knocking the snot out of people, most recently Tennessee by a score of 43-14, as Jake Fromm completed 24 of 29 for 288 yards and two touchdowns. Georgia has just five losses since the start of the 2017 season, sixth-fewest in the country, behind only Oklahoma, Ohio State, Central Florida, Alabama and Clemson.

#16 Michigan Wolverines (4-1) at Illinois Fighting Illini (2-3)
Noon ET on ABC/ESPN3
The Wolverines last week survived one slog of a game, eking out a 10-3 victory over then #14 Iowa, despite failing to score in the final three quarters. This team is being propped up almost entirely by its defense, as the offense is just one more bad day away from being only the third-highest scoring in their home state, behind Central and Western Michigan. Saturday could be their chance to get going, as they face an Illinois team that gives up 31.8 ppg. Last week the Illini fell to 40-17 to Minnesota, allowing 333 yards rushing on 51 carries.

Florida State Seminoles (3-2) at #2 Clemson Tigers (5-0)
3:30pm ET on ABC/ESPN3
The Seminoles are coming off a bye week, before which they rolled over NC State by a tally of 31-13 as Alex Hornibrook connect on 29 of 40 for 316 yards and three TDs. The Tigers survived a scare their last time out, beating UNC 21-20 by the grace of a failed two-point conversion in the final two minutes. Though they won the game, the close score cost them their seat atop the national rankings, as they plummeted all the way to #2. There are worse fates in College Football than facing Clemson coming off a bye week with something to prove, but none come to mind.

#10 Penn State Nittany Lions (5-0) at #17 Iowa Hawkeyes (4-1)
7:30pm ET on ABC/ESPN3
Penn State jumped out to a 28-0 first-half lead last week against Purdue, before coasting home to a 35-7 victory as Sean Clifford completed 20 of 29 for 264 yards and three TDs and the defense held Purdue to just 104 total yards. In their first real test of the season, the Hawkeyes last week fell 10-3 to Michigan, as Nathan Stanley threw three interceptions and Mekhi Sargent fumbled the ball away on their first play of the game. Four turnovers ain’t gonna cut it against Penn State.

#7 Florida Gators (6-0) at #5 LSU Tigers (5-0)
8pm ET on ESPN
Last week, Lamical Perine iced the Gators 24-13 win over Auburn with an 88-yard touchdown run midway through the 4th quarter on a day when teammate Feddie Swain hauled in six passes for 146 yards and a touchdown of his own. But the Gators’ strength is on defense, where their 9.5 ppg allowed is fifth-lowest in the country and their 2.8 turnovers forced is second-best. Tigers QB Joe Burrow suffered his worst day of the year last week, as he completed 27 of 38 for 344 yards, five touchdowns and an interception, and adding another 42 yards and a TD on 10 carries — that’s how good he’s been this year that that performance has been the bottom of his personal barrel.

Stats courtesy SRCFB

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