Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher says the Clemson-FSU game is one of the best rivalries in college football and is one of the most important games of the year it seems every year.
Saturday’s matchup in Tallahassee, Florida appears to be that way again.
The third-ranked Tigers (7-0, 4-0) come in needing a win to stay at the top of the college football rankings and position themselves for a top-four ranking when the first College Football Playoff rankings are released on Tuesday.
The 14th-ranked Seminoles (5-2, 2-2 ACC) on the other hand, are hoping to get back on the national scene and maybe position themselves for a New Year’s Six bowl invitation.
Below is a transcript of Fisher’s conversation with the media during Wednesday’s ACC Coaches’ Teleconference.
COACH FISHER: It was great to get back to work this week after the off week last week as far as getting a little bit of rest but then got a lot of fundamental work and work on some future opponents.
But our kids, it came at a really good time after seven hard weeks and camp and I think it came very appropriately. I think we’re healing up very well and getting pretty healthy, looking forward to the matchup with Clemson, I think it’s become one of the great rivalries in football game and a very important football game every year; and they have a tremendous program. Dabo and his staff and players do a tremendous job and we have a very good one ourselves.
It’s what college football is all about. We look forward to those opportunities and looking forward to play well here at Doak Campbell this weekend. Keep having a good week of practice and then looking forward to the opportunities that we have coming up this weekend.
Q: Chris is at Faulkner University, having a productive year. Did you and Faulkner have a conversation about him, and what’s your hope for Chris moving forward?
COACH FISHER: Chris is a tremendous young man. I hope he has great success, and a great future. He’s a very talented young man. We hated not to have him here last year, but he is a very, very gifted young man and a really about person. I think he has talent and I hope he can develop and do that.
But no, I didn’t. I personally never spoke to anyone for Faulkner. But I hope that Chris is doing a great job and I’m sure he’s doing a great job.
Q: How has Dalvin Cook grown as a running back and as a player the last couple years?
COACH FISHER: I think becoming more and more well-rounded; I think understanding, truly understanding blocking schemes and what defenses are trying to do to him.
And as teams put more people in the box and do things to hinder his success, he just keeps emerging and evolving into understanding the game so much better, and of course it helped himself really in his pass catching and abilities and route running and things like that, and just overall leadership and the way he affects his teammates.
Q: And then Clemson’s defense the last couple of years, is their defense under Brent Venables really developed into one of the better ones in the country over the last few years?
COACH FISHER: Brent does a tremendous job. He’s multiple looks, multiple personnel, uses his people very well, pressure at times, doesn’t pressure. He’s very smart with how he does things and they have very good players. They have very recruited very good players, they have evaluated and they have developed their players. Everybody says, you’ve got good players. Well, you’ve got to go develop those players. You’ve got to coach those player and you have to put them in the right position to make plays. And they have done that and he’s done a very good job of that.
Q: How important is it to get the lead early and keep the fans involved?
COACH FISHER: I think they will be involved no matter what. I think it will be a great atmosphere, but it’s always good. I mean, when you get home, you want to score and you want to set a precedent in the game and you want to try to put pressure on your opponent; I think it is very critical.
But at the same time I think our fans will respond no matter what, but it would be very nice tore us to get off to a good start and to establish ourselves.
Q: How important is it to get (Deondre) Francois and Cook into a rhythm?
COACH FISHER: Well, I think it is. If you’re a quarterback and tailback, and you’ve got to get the ball to your receivers and tight ends, and then we have got to be able to run the football.
There was a guy there that touched the ball the most on our offense, there was no doubt. And just like for them, it will be important to get Deshaun and Gallman and those guys and the receivers going early, and it will be the same thing for us. You always want to do that as an offensive coach.
Q: In your opinion, what’s more important, being able to do what you do best or stopping Clemson from doing what they do best?
COACH FISHER: Both. Because at the end of the day, you have to become who you are and what you are, and you’ll have your adjustments or whatever but you have to be able to defend them.
And you’ve got to make them uncomfortable at whatever it is: Offense, defense, special teams, and you have to try and make them not be as comfortable in the things that they have to do and maybe have to do different things. That’s part of what you have to do and we need to establish that.
Q: Francois, after the Louisville game, what is he doing better now than what he was doing then?
COACH FISHER: In that game he played pretty well early and then the game got out of hands in all phases and we had some protection break downs. Even in that game, I said even when he came off the field, he knew exactly what was going on in the game and able to make adjustments and able to communicate.
Even though you’re not making the plays or the plays are not there to be made, you’re seeing everything and that tells me his mental preparation, his psychological disposition and toughness to be able to stay in those games was extremely good and we may have learned as much about him in that game as any game.
I think he just keeps growing and we keep playing better around him and his leadership and toughness and all the physical skills which he has just keeps getting better and he works it in the game.
Q: Talk about how big this rivalry has become. Do you think it’s the same level as a Alabama and LSU rivalry, and do you think your fan base gets almost as excited as they do for Miami or Florida?
COACH FISHER: Yeah, they understand the importance of Clemson. They understand the importance of it. Like you say, Alabama and LSU are very good, there was a long time there that whoever won that game was going to the SEC Championship and things, and that is very big and that’s kind of been the same way it is here.
Other teams, Louisville and everything else in this league, is really growing in so many ways and so many teams, NC State and Miami, I mean, all of them; North Carolina, Virginia Tech, it’s a great league.
But this game has been the pivotal one for the past five, six years that we’ve been in it; or six years I’ve been in it for sure, going on seven. The winner of this game has big implications not only in conference status but National Championship contention. It’s become a very, very important rivalry not only in this league but in the country.