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Each week, we’ll talk to our reporters on the ground to get their thoughts on the biggest happenings during the college football season. With this weekend comes Clemson-Florida State, a Red River Showdown that seems to be all about the coaches and a big stage for college football’s most impressive freshman.
FSU-Clemson brings recruiting trend to forefront
This weekend’s Clemson-Florida State game functions as a number of things. It’s an important matchup for both teams when it comes to the ACC title picture. It’s a must-have for Clemson’s playoff hopes. But It’s also a statement game when it comes to recruiting.
Dabo Swinney’s program has spent the last handful of years raiding the state of Florida for its top talent. The Tigers have signed nine Sunshine State-based prospects in their last two classes and currently have five more (including two five-stars) committed in the class of 2020. Players that used to land in Tallahassee are now packing their backs for Clemson in droves, making this weekend’s game a signpost on the recruiting trail.
There’s more than a tally in the win column at stake here.
“It doesn’t feel that long ago when Clemson needed the FSU game to build credibility in Florida,” said Paul Strelow, who covers Clemson at TigerIllustrated.com. “But after four wins in a row against the Seminoles, with a pair of national championships added in the midst, the script has flipped. Here’s arguing the Tigers have more to lose going against FSU these days than they could gain with another beatdown like last season’s 49-point triumph.”
It’s hard to argue with Strelow’s take, especially after Clemson recently landed a commitment from tight end Sage Ennis, an FSU target that attends high school roughly five miles away from the Seminoles’ campus. This is a full-fledged trend — and it’s one that won’t stop until Willie Taggart and company find a way to stop it.
“More than a fourth of Clemson’s 2021 offers have gone to Sunshine State prospects,” Strelow said. “...FSU has to stop their momentum on the field before it can hope to regain footing off it.”
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LSU’s freshman phenom takes big stage
There’s no more impressive true freshman in the country than LSU defensive back Derek Stingley Jr. The No. 1 overall recruit in the 2019 class, Stingley has wasted no time making an impact in Baton Rouge, where he immediately became not only a starter but one of the most effective defensive backs in the country.
As No. 5 LSU prepares to host No. 7 Florida in the most important game of the week, all eyes will be on Stingley, who has somehow managed to exceed the expectations that arrived with his standing as the No. 1 recruit in America. Jerit Roser, who writes about the Tigers for TigerDetails.com, has covered Stingley since the touted freshman was in high school and thinks this weekend may be Stingley’s national coming-out party.
“Considering early matchups with Texas, Utah State and even at Vanderbilt, I was curious to see if he might get bit on a big play or two early in the season as he adjusted to another level, but he hasn’t,” Roser said. “But he’s also had chances at another two or three interceptions I wouldn’t have expected him to miss out on, and I’m surprised he hasn’t housed a punt or two.”
Stingley has the look of a future top-10 draft pick and could start the process of becoming a household name come Saturday.
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High stakes at the Red River Showdown
One of college football’s most famous rivalries, Oklahoma-Texas never lacks storylines or mainstream appeal. This year, however, the game’s marquee features the names of two of the sport’s most famous coaches.
But while the headline on the contest is Tom Herman vs. Lincoln Riley, the stakes are larger than that. The Sooners represent the next hurdle for a Texas team on the road back to true national prominence, and a win on Saturday would announce Herman’s program as a serious threat to OU’s recent Big 12 dominance.
Of course, a win would also keep the Longhorns alive in the College Football Playoff hunt. Make no mistake, though. Saturday is about clearing UT’s most massive obstacle.
"If the Longhorns win over Oklahoma, it would set them up for a chance to be a factor in the playoff discussion, but that would likely mean needing to beat Oklahoma a second time in the Big 12 championship,” said Geoff Ketchum, who owns and operates Orangebloods.com. “Losing to LSU earlier in the season was no real black eye, but it did eliminate any margin for error that might have existed before the season. It would be a weekly tightrope for the Longhorns to remain in the national conversation, but having a pulse in that respect is better than simply being dead."
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