CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney won’t have to ramp up his enthusiasm this week with No. 17 Florida State in town to take on the third-ranked Tigers.
“Every game is the Super Bowl every single week,” he said.
This one certainly means a lot for both teams.
The Tigers (8-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference; No. 1 CFP) can lock up the ACC Atlantic and keep their top ranking in the College Football Playoffs with a win Saturday. The Seminoles (7-1, 5-1; No. 16 CFP) can take control of the division and get themselves into the playoff mix with a fourth consecutive win in the series.
“We don’t have to play Florida State to get excited about playing a game,” Swinney said. “But am I pumped about being 8-0? Heck yeah. But if we were 4-4, I’d be just as excited about playing this week.”
Florida State has been a thorn in Clemson’s side the past few seasons: The Tigers are 34-7 the last three years with three of those defeats coming to the Seminoles.
The last time Florida State came to Clemson was a doozy. The Seminoles blew apart the Tigers 6-0 start with a 51-14 victory, the most points an opponent ever scored in Death Valley.
Clemson has not had much to worry about the past month. Since a 24-22 win over Notre Dame decided in the game’s final seconds on Oct. 3, the Tigers have powered past their next four opponents by a combined score of 191-82.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson has led the charge and kept the Tigers offense moving. Clemson leads the ACC in total offense at 485 yards per game.
“You can see them playing fast, making those tight plays, those contested plays,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.
The Seminoles defense tries to slow that down come Saturday.
Things to watch for when No. 17 Florida State faces No. 3 Clemson:
DESHAUN IN CHARGE: Clemson’s sophomore quarterback has come into his own in recent games. He’s accounted for 12 touchdowns and nearly 1,200 yards in the Tigers past three blowouts. He threw for 266 yards and ran for a touchdown at Florida State last year, thrust into the game early and never coming out. Watson nearly pulled off the upset before Florida State rallied to win 23-17 in overtime. He’s looking to finish the job this time.
WHO’S QB? Florida State still isn’t sure who’ll start at quarterback at Clemson on Saturday. Starter Everett Golson, who won a state championship in Myrtle Beach, missed last week’s contest due a concussion. Backup Sean Maguire led the Seminoles to a victory over Syracuse and could get the call again at Death Valley.
READY TO COOK: Also on the sidelines last week was Florida State runner Dalvin Cook, the ACC’s leading rusher who sat out with an ankle injury. Backup Jacques Patrick rushed for 162 yards in the Seminoles’ win over Syracuse. Cook has practiced this week and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Cook has made progress.
CLEMSON D: The Tigers had perhaps their worst defensive showing of the season a week ago against North Carolina State. The Wolfpack put up 41 points (Clemson came in averaging 14 points allowed over its first seven games) and gained 389 yards, the second-highest total given up by the Tigers this season. Linebacker Ben Boulware said the errors that showed up are easily fixed and won’t be a problem against the Seminoles.
MORE RAIN? It has been a soggy season at Clemson this year. Wet weather has been a factor in two of their past three homes games and more precipitation is forecast for Saturday. The worst of it was Oct. 3 when a steady rain pelted Death Valley and its soldout fans in Clemson’s 24-22 win over Notre Dame.