All Eyes On Tallahassee
Sept. 19, 2012
Steve Phillips, Associate Director of Communications for the Atlantic Coast Conference, takes you Beyond the ACCtion. Today's article looks at how this Saturday's Clemson-Florida State game fits into ACC history.
Clemson and North Carolina made ACC Football history on Nov. 7, 1981.
Playing before a then-Kenan Stadium record crowd of 53,611 on a beautiful mid-fall Saturday afternoon, the second-ranked Tigers outlasted the eighth-ranked Tar Heels in a 10-8 slugfest that for all practical purposes decided the ACC title and kept Clemson on track for an unbeaten season and eventual national championship.
The final score belied the intensity and passion that surrounded the game from start to finish. Points may have been scarce in the defensive struggle, but the air-tight game left those in attendance emotionally drained and those among the regional television audience aware that they had witnessed something special.
The game was significant for another reason. It marked the first time since the ACC’s formation in 1953 that two conference teams ranked among the nation’s top 10 squared off in a head-to-head meeting.
Sixteen years passed before it happened again. Kenan Stadium was again the setting on Nov. 8, 1997, when No. 3 Florida State scored a 20-3 win over No. 5 North Carolina in a battle of unbeaten teams.
ACC top-10 matchups have since become more commonplace, with six occurrences between 1999 and 2007. It will happen for the ninth time in ACC history this Saturday night when fourth-ranked Florida State plays host to 10th-ranked Clemson.
Much has changed in 31 years. The Clemson-North Carolina game in 1981 was played in the early afternoon and roughly 60 percent of the nation was able to watch a live broadcast. This Saturday’s showdown between FSU (3-0 overall, 1-0 ACC) and Clemson (3-0, 0-0) will kick off shortly after 8 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ABC.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s team has already played one “big game” already this season, a 26-19 victory over SEC foe Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on Sept. 1. But Swinney notes that a few things will be different about this Saturday night, starting with a mostly pro-Seminole crowd of over 82,000.
“A big thing for us offensively will be handling the environment,” Swinney said. “It’s obviously going to be a big crowd, and a great venue to play a college football game. But half the stadium is not for you like it was in Atlanta. The whole stadium is against you. I am sure we will have a small pocket (of fans) there, and hopefully we can bring them to their feet a few times.”
Hours prior to kickoff, ESPN’s College GameDay will originate Saturday morning from the shadow of Doak Campbell Stadium. Host Chris Fowler and analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard will air live from 10 a.m. until noon, marking the show’s eighth trip to Tallahassee overall and its second in as many seasons.
“It will be huge,” exclaimed Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel. “The fact that there is so much build-up going into the game is obviously something you grow up as a kid wanting to be a part of. Being from Virginia, we would watch the Florida States and the Miamis, and these are the types of games that they had. The 8:00 games, prime time, Kirk Herbstreit, all those guys … Lee Corso there at the game. That’s what you want to be a part of, that’s what you want to play in.”
Particularly when so much potentially rides on the outcome.
“The situation couldn’t be any better,” Manuel said. “(The Tigers) are coming in, and they are a great team, undefeated. We are coming in with a good team and undefeated as well. ”
FSU coach Jimbo Fischer concurred.
"It's going to be a great game and great atmosphere next weekend, and having GameDay here will add to that,” Fisher said. “Having that big game ... it's one of the reasons our players come to Florida State and our fans show up. Creating that atmosphere is one of the best things about college football.”
ACC schools have hosted ESPN’s College GameDay a total of 26 times, and ACC teams have made a collective 66 appearances.
The Clemson-FSU series
Since the ACC went to divisional play prior to the 2005 season, Florida State and Clemson have made a combined four appearances in the ACC Championship Game as the Atlantic Division representative, including each of the last three seasons.
Florida State holds an 17-8 lead in the all-time series, including a 14-6 edge in ACC play. But the teams have split the last 12 meetings, with Clemson claiming a 35-30 decision at Death Valley last season en route to an eventual ACC title.
This year will mark the 21st meeting in which at least one team has been ranked among the nation’s Top 25 and eighth in which both teams were ranked.
“This is a huge game, but it’s the fourth game (of the season),” Swinney said. “Our next goal is to win the division. Is it a big game for the division? You better believe it. The winner of the game is in control, the loser of the game is at the mercy of others.
“But it’s not over for anybody. It’s a long season.”
For complete replays of several previous Clemson-FSU games, please see the ACC Vault at theACC.com. The ACC Vault, a platform serviced by the ACC Network, includes the 2003, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 meetings between the Tigers and the Seminoles. The aforementioned 2007 game between No. 2 Boston College and No. 8 Virginia Tech is also archived at the ACC Vault.