Clemson needed a go-ahead touchdown with two minutes remaining last year in Tallahassee to beat Florida State, 37-34, in a game the Tigers trailed by eight points entering the fourth quarter. While oddsmakers (Clemson is a 16-point favorite) and everyone else on the outside don't expect this year's game in Clemson to be anywhere near a one-score game, the struggling Seminoles still have the full attention of the playoff-seeking Tigers.
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Florida State beat Syracuse last week to end a two-game skid but are still just 3-5 on the season, buried in the ACC standings and need to win three of their final four games to reach a bowl game for the 37th consecutive season. Clemson, meanwhile, is 8-1 overall, has all but won the ACC Atlantic and is, all in likelihood, four wins away from a second-straight trip to the College Football Playoff.
Dabo Swinney doesn't care.
"They're very dangerous," he said of Florida State on a conference call this week. "I promise you, there's no coach that's going to turn on the tape and be excited about playing Florida State. They've got players everywhere. I mean, they're very experienced up front on the offensive line. These receivers are massive."
He gushed over receivers Auden Tate, Gavin Keith and Nyqwan Murray, running back Cam Akers — who is "as advertised" — and tight end Ryan Izzo. Swinney also acknowledged the improvement from true freshman quarterback James Blackman, who had his first non-turnover game in Week 10 since late September.
"He's gotten better and better as the year has gone on. They've got a tough situation," he said, referencing the Week 1 loss of Deondre Francois. "…But they've been in position to win, and that's because of the type of talent that they have. But this kid has really improved. He can push the ball down the field. They do a great job with their screen game. They'll max it up and take some shots."
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Defensively, Swinney talked about "some freaky dudes" in their secondary, led by Derwin James, whose helped Florida State rank in the top half the FBS in most areas, including total yards per game (37th), passing yards per game (47th), third-down defense (60th) and passing efficiency defense (41st). Clearly, those aren't the eye-popping rankings typical of the 'Noles but the defense has kept them in games and remained a unit that Clemson is very concerned about.
"They've got a bunch of guys," Swinney added. "…I mean, they're just typical Florida State. Only thing different with Florida State this year is just their record. You know, that's it. But the personnel, the talent, the athleticism is just typical Florida State"
We'll see if Clemson can handle typical Florida State on Saturday. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. ET.