By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — Josh Watson admits he does not have a lot of history when it comes to playing in road stadiums like Doak Campbell Stadium, so he has no idea of what the atmosphere in Tallahassee, Fla., will be like this Saturday when No. 10 Clemson visits fourth-ranked Florida State. But what the Clemson defensive tackle does know is this – he will be playing in a football game.
“It’s just football. It is the same in high school and in little league,” he said. “You still have to put your hand in the ground and play. I remember playing in little league championship games and thinking that was the biggest thing in the world and being nervous. But after the first play, it turns into football.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney called it big-boy football after last week’s victory over Furman, and that was exactly the theme at Clemson’s WestZone Tuesday as the Tigers talked about what is being dubbed as the most important game in the ACC in five years.
“More importantly, it is ACC play for us,” Swinney said. “This is just not ACC play, but it is a division game so it is a really critical ballgame on the schedule.”
In each of the last three years, the winner of the Clemson-Florida State game has gone on to win the ACC’s Atlantic Division and play for an ACC Championship. Clemson beat the Seminoles 35-30 in Death Valley last year on its way to winning its first conference title in 20 years and its 14th ACC title overall.
“This is a huge opportunity,” Watson said. “The winner of this game basically is in the driver seat in the conference so you never want to leave anything up to chance. We definitely want to win this game. We do not want to be in that situation where this team has to lose or that team has to lose to get into (the championship game).
“We want to control our own destiny so coming out with a win this weekend is going to be huge for us.”
It’s also going to be challenging for the Tigers, who are a 13-point underdog to Florida State. Through the first three weeks of the season, FSU has outscored its opponents 176-3. The ‘Noles lead the country in just about every defensive category and rank second nationally in scoring at better than 58 points per game.
But let’s not forget Florida State has rolled up those numbers against the likes of Murray State, Savannah State and to a Wake Forest team that ranks last or next to last in just about every offensive and defensive category.
The Tigers also have something few will have going into the Florida State game. They will confidence they can move the ball and score on the Seminoles. Last year, the Tigers rolled up 443 yards of total offense and scored 35 points without the aid of any turnovers or good field position. Clemson had scoring drives of 80, 77, 79, 70 and 80 yards on the Seminoles. Seven of the 11 Florida State defenders that started that game last year will be starting Saturday night in Tallahassee.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd also started that game, and threw for 344 yards, while completing 22 of 35 passes, including three touchdowns. He also ran for a score.
“It definitely gives us confidence, but again, they have only given up three points this season,” Boyd said. “Maybe, we are their first real test. I don’t know, we will see. All you can do is go out there and prepare for the game and play it.”
Because after all, it is just football.