- Dabo Swinney admits Saturday's showdown with Florida State is the biggest
game of the season for his Clemson team. Then again, he says that every week.
Monday, Maryland will be the biggest game of the year," the head coach said
Tuesday at his news conference to preview the tilt. "That's just our
Swinney conceded some games have special circumstances surrounding them, and
the looming showdown with the No. 5 Seminoles on Saturday night (8 p.m., ABC) certainly
fits that bill.
will be the first meeting of top-five teams ever played at Death Valley and
only the second such clash in Clemson history, the other being the Orange Bowl
at the end of the 1981 season that delivered the Tigers their only national
the hype is the return of ESPN's iconic pregame show, "College GameDay," which
also came to Clemson for the season opener against Georgia, making this the
first time it has visited the same site twice within the first eight weeks of a
said his third-ranked Tigers (6-0, 4-0 ACC) have enough to worry about against
Florida State (5-0, 2-0) without dwelling on the magnitude of the matchup.
"This is a
great football team we're getting ready to play, possibly the best team in the
country," he said. "They've got a top-three offense, a top-three defense and
explosive players at every position. They've got a Heisman candidate at
quarterback, a guy that's playing as good as anybody in the country. Throw on
top of all that the fact that this is a division game, and this is what it's
State freshman sensation Jameis Winston has thrust himself squarely into the
Heisman Trophy mix by completing 73 percent of his passes and throwing 17
touchdowns against just two interceptions.
Winston, the FSU offense is averaging 53.6 points and 549 yards per game.
"I know he's
listed as a redshirt freshman, but he looks like a full-grown man to me,"
Swinney said. "He can make plays with his legs and his arm."
Clemson has its own Heisman candidate in senior Tajh Boyd, who needs to pass
for 164 yards Saturday to become just the third quarterback in ACC history to reach
10,000 yards for his career.
With two of
the nation's most explosive offenses on display, Boyd knows there is a good
chance the game will come down to the fourth quarter.
I wanted to be a quarterback because I wanted the ball in my hands," he said.
"When it comes down to making a play late in the game when you need it, when
you have to have it, that's always been my thing, regardless of the outcome.
You've got to love being in that position."
Tigers and Seminoles being the only two teams in the ACC Atlantic Division with
records above .500 in league play, the game also looks likely to be the de
facto division title game - again.
of this game has gone on to win the Atlantic each of the last four seasons and
has gone on to win the ACC Championship each of the last two.
to the Seminoles 49-37 in Tallahassee, FL, last season in a game that saw FSU
roll up 667 yards of offense, and Swinney said he didn't particularly enjoy
looking back at the film from that night.
very good last year (on defense). I had to turn it off," he said. "It wasn't
pretty. They kind of had their way with us."
said the Tigers' drastic improvement on the defensive side of the ball this
season makes him optimistic his team will fare much better this time around.
Clemson ranked 60th in the nation in total defense entering last year's game,
according to Swinney, it enters Saturday's matchup ranked 10th, giving up just
16.2 points per contest.
actually rank higher nationally in scoring defense than they do scoring offense
(17th, 40.8), and they lead the country in sacks per game (4.0), tackles for
loss per game (10.2) and third-down defense (23.7 percent).
became sophomores. Sophomores became juniors," Swinney said. "We've got the
same players. They were good players then. Now they're good players with
experience. They've grown up. We've got the experienced depth that you need in
the key positions. We're much more confident."
Clemson entered the season known for its high-octane offense, it is quickly building
a reputation on defense as well.
week's 24-14 win over Boston College, the Tigers have held five straight foes
to 14 points or fewer, the first time they have done that in a season since the
last five games of Danny Ford's tenure as head coach in 1989.
admitted the defensive resurgence this season has also buoyed the offense.
it's a confidence factor, just the expectation that we know what the defense is
going to do, that the defense knows what we're going to do," he said. "And if
one or the other is down for a little bit, you know it's not going to be for
understanding that they have our back and vice versa has been really good. I
think you're seeing this team grow right before your eyes."
will have a chance to show just how much Saturday night.