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Steve Phillips, Special to theACC.com
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – In addition to being a key game in the ACC Atlantic Division, Saturday night’s Clemson-FSU matchup continues what has become one of the league’s stronger rivalries. The winner of the game has gone on to win the Atlantic Division and the ACC Championship each of the previous three years.
“It's definitely a rivalry game,” Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Again, it's conference, but it’s division. For us, it's all about winning the league, because if we can win the league, then we have an opportunity to do great things nationally. That's been proven. If you win this thing, you're going to be in the mix, so it's huge from that standpoint. But at the end of the day, it's just our first conference game, and it's the same for them.”
Fisher expects the Tigers to be equally motivated, and not just because of how last year’s meeting transpired.
“I’m sure they’re going to come in and play well,” Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “That (2013 game) is over with, and I am sure this team will want to come in here and play well and have a great standing – maybe because of last year a little bit, but because they want to win and they know what’s in front of them and they have pride, too. It’s a great program with a great coach and they have a lot of pride, and I know they’re going to want to come in and play football.”
Success also bred one the ACC’s newer rivalries that will be renewed Saturday in Blacksburg, Va., where Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech meet in a battle of two programs that have combined to claim all but one of league’s Coastal Division championships (noon, ESPN). Duke’s championship last season broke the Tech programs’ eight-year stranglehold since the ACC went to division play.
And in nonconference action, North Carolina is set to make the two-hour drive to face East Carolina (3:30 p.m., ESPNU).
“When you’re talking about an in-state team, the good part about it is the regional rivalry that I’ve talked about before,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “The fans, they love it … it gives your fans something to talk about all year.
“Who doesn’t like rivalries? Who doesn’t like playing teams that dislike each other? I think that’s a good thing. You know what the stadium is going to be like; you know that the crowd is going to be hostile. You have to relish in that environment. It should be a lot of fun.”