As if playing in the soldout, boisterous stadium dubbed "Death Valley" won't be tough enough, No. 11 Florida State enters today's game against No. 21 Clemson with uncertainty swirling around the starting quarterback position.
EJ Manuel, FSU's starter last week against Oklahoma, has been nursing an injured nonthrowing shoulder, so redshirt freshman Clint Trickett, who was sacked five times in relief, took all the snaps in practice this week.
As of Friday evening, coach Jimbo Fisher had not named a starter for the Seminoles' road and ACC opener at a venue where FSU has not won in its past four trips.
So Trickett, son of FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett, could be making his first collegiate start before 81,000 in Memorial Stadium.
"It will be loud," Clint Trickett said earlier in the week. "I've heard they get louder for Florida State, so I'm excited for it."
The lanky Trickett, listed at a generous 180 pounds at 6 feet 2, has played in all three games this season, completing 14 of 23 for 310 yards. His only interception came on a tipped pass against Oklahoma while all four of his touchdown passes have gone to freshman Rashad Greene.
But Clemson's Dabo Swinney has been preparing as if Manuel, listed as questionable after an MRI exam showed no structural damage to his left shoulder, will take the field. "I expect him to play," the Tigers coach said.
Fisher twice had injuries similar to Manuel's during his playing days and understands how painful they can be.
"But they are tolerable, and you can manage through those," Fisher said. "You've just got to make sure it doesn't affect your throwing motion."
There is one thing FSU can find hope in if Trickett starts. Dating to 1985, Florida State has won 15 of 16 games with a quarterback making his first start.
"I just try and make sure they know that I'm not rattled so they can have more confidence in me," Trickett said. "You can't let the moment get the best of you."
So the burden in this game might shift to FSU's defense, which must slow standout freshman receiver Sammy Watkins, who burned Auburn last week for 10 catches for 155 yards.
"They do a lot of the same things (as Oklahoma)," FSU linebacker Vince Williams said. "Oklahoma's like NASCAR; line up and run. (Clemson is) not really like that. They call a lot of their plays at the line of scrimmage, but even when they get to the line of scrimmage, there's a lot of shifting and motion and moving around and things like that. It's more confusing."
The key to that confusion is QB Tajh Boyd. A run-pass threat, the sophomore can be a big part of any play. Even if he ultimately puts the ball in someone else's hands, Boyd's ability to make those plays has to be respected, too.
"They just do all the reverses and all the fakes," FSU defensive tackle Everett Dawkins said. "They'll have one guy come past the quarterback and don't give him the ball, but they'll give it to somebody coming behind him. It's just a lot of different stuff, and you've got to make sure you really look and you're focused and keyed in on the players. Because if you think this guy has the ball and he doesn't, that can be a touchdown."
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.
No. 11 FSU at No. 21 Clemson
3:30, Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
TV/radio: ESPN; 820-AM
Line: Clemson by 2½
Weather: 80 degrees, mostly sunny, no chance of rain
No. 15 Florida at Kentucky
7, Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky.
TV/radio: ESPN; 1250-AM
Line: UF by 19½
Weather: 67 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain
No. 18 USF vs. UTEP
7, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa.
Radio: 970-AM (no TV)
Line: USF by 29
Weather: 81 degrees, isolated thunderstorms, 30 percent chance of rain