Seminoles, Tigers again bask in national spotlight

(Pictured: In last year's Clemson-Florida State matchup, Lamarcus Joyner covers the Tigers' Adam Humphries)

Steve Phillips, Special to

GREENSBORO, N.C. ( – Having been on both the winning and losing end, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has a sense of perspective as his team prepares to renew its ACC Atlantic Division rivalry with defending national champion Florida State.

“You have to be careful when you win this game, and you have to be careful if you don't win it,” Swinney said. “That's very important.  If you celebrate and act like you've won the ACC because you've won this game, well, guess what?  You're going to get beat the next week and probably get beat again.  If it doesn't go your way, hey, you've got to pick your boots up and go back to work and control what you control.  I think that's what the great programs do.”

Both teams dodged the pitfalls to which Swinney alluded following last season’s much-hyped Top 5 meeting at Death Valley, where Seminoles won by a surprisingly decisive 51-14 score. Florida State marched on to an unbeaten season and the program’s third national title. Clemson finished with an 11-2 record that included a win over No. 6 Ohio State in the Orange Bowl and a final No. 7 national ranking.

“What I was excited about and what told me a lot about our football team was when we hit the practice field on Monday, they had already forgotten about that (Clemson) game,”  FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher recalled earlier this week. “You could tell they weren’t dwelling in the past, they weren’t relishing in all of the accolades that were being thrown their way. We were just back to business and practicing football, and that’s when I really felt good about our football team – one that could keep that focus week-in and week-out.”

Saturday night’s game in Tallahassee is scheduled to kick off shortly after 8 p.m. and will be shown nationally on ABC. Much focus will be on the No. 1 Seminoles and No. 22 Tigers well prior to that, as ESPN College GameDay is set to be on site for the game for the third consecutive year. Saturday’s appearance will be the ninth overall for GameDay in Tallahassee and the 29th time that FSU has played at the site of the event, including earlier this year in the season opener against Oklahoma State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Clemson will be making its sixth appearance at GameDay.

Both teams head into Saturday night’s ACC opener following bye weeks.

“I think it was very important,” Fisher said. “It gets you into a mindset to go into your conference … it kind of transitions from the nonconference into your conference games and how important they are. Just setting the tone for what you’re here for. The first goal, again you have to win your division, then you have to win your conference. And that starts this week.”