NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Florida State

Sep 28, 2019; Tallahassee, FL, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack running back Jordan Houston (20) runs the ball during the first half past Florida State Seminoles linebacker Leonard Warner III (35) at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Either Clemson or Florida State has won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in each of the past eight years.

This Saturday's meeting in Clemson, S.C., isn't quite the spotlight game it has sometimes been, but there's still plenty at stake in the Atlantic Division for both teams and, for Clemson, the national championship race.

"This is my 17th Clemson-Florida State game, and it never gets old," said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, whose team is coming off a bye week following a 21-20 win against North Carolina that dropped the Tigers from No. 1 to No. 2 in the polls.

"This is a huge game. We both want the same thing. The winner is in control of their division destiny. This is playoff football."

Clemson (5-0, 3-0 in ACC) will carry a 20-game winning streak into game. Florida State (3-2, 2-1) has won three of its last four games.

"Florida State is the most talented team we have played," Swinney said. "They should be 5-0. They have started to create an identity."

Indeed, the Seminoles appear to be back on track following a rough start. Florida State blew a big lead in dropping its season-opening game against Boise State, then slipped past Louisiana-Monroe by a point in overtime before losing by a touchdown at Coastal Division-leading Virginia.

Victories against Louisville and North Carolina State have followed, but second-year Florida State coach Willie Taggart is well aware that facing the reigning national champion on the road will present a different type of challenge.

"It's a great Clemson team, so you can't practice just one week and think you're going to knock them off," Taggart said. "We've got to work on us.

"We've got to understand Clemson and what they're doing, but we've really got to work on us. I've said it before, but it will always be that way -- it's about Florida State. We're going to need to be at our best against Clemson at their place."

Taggart said Monday that quarterback James Blackman will start again after suffering a sprained MCL in his left knee on Sept. 21. Alex Hornibrook, a graduate transfer from Wisconsin who guided the Seminoles to a win against N.C. State last week, also will play, Taggart said.

"I see two guys who are playing well within the system," Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "Both have good mobility and throw with precision. Both have big arms and enough savviness to make plays when things break down."

Still, Clemson's primary quest will be to slow down Florida State running back Cam Akers, who is the league's second-leading rusher at 116.4 yards per game.

The Tigers haven't allowed an opposing rusher to reach 100 yards in 26 games, dating to the 2017 season, but Akers poses a serious threat to that streak.

"Cam Akers -- everything goes through him," Swinney said. "He is a very committed runner. We have to match his physicality and mindset because this guy is a committed dude. He just keeps coming and they just keep giving him the ball."

Clemson's offense is led by sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence, junior running back Travis Etienne (462 yards) and a stable of wide receivers that includes playmakers Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers.

Higgins is coming off a six-catch, 129-yard effort. Rodgers burned the Seminoles for 156 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns in the Tigers' 59-10 romp a year ago in Tallahassee, Fla.

Lawrence directed the national-title run last season but hasn't lived up to his preseason hype as the Heisman favorite, having completed 84 of 136 passes for 1,131 yards, with eight touchdowns and five interceptions.

"I don't think he's up and down," Swinney said. "He's had a couple of bad plays, but we're 5-0."

--Field Level Media