Christmas comes to Death Valley in October

Christmas comes to Death Valley in October


Christmas comes to Death Valley in October


By Ed McGranahan.

By Ed McGranahan

At this point there’s probably not much you don’t know about these teams or this series to offer any great revelations.

It would almost be like trying to spin Christmas, and virtually sacrilege to flip it over and examine the dark side. Do you really need to know whether Santa leaves skid marks on his boxers?

After two decades Florida State-Clemson finally means more to the balance of power in college football than who’s getting the big steak at dinner in the Bowden house.

As sweet and rare as they were, the Bowden Bowl games barely moved the seismographic needle, though it was hard to pull against Ann. When both programs were stuck in neutral, Tommy looking for “just one more play” and Bobby beginning to feel the heat, I wrote that it probably would end badly for them both.

While it would be hard to consider Tommy’s $3 million buyout “bad,” they were relatively bloodless coups, and the men installed as dictators are still walking the parapets. Both are cut from similar bolts of cloth with tangled threads.

John James Fisher of Clarksburg, W.Va., was a quarterback at Salem College for two seasons where he played for Terry Bowden.  He followed Bowden to Samford in Birmingham, Ala., where he was later on staff, and to Auburn.

After a year at Cincinnati he joined Nick Saban’s staff at LSU and remained after Saban dipped his toe in the NFL water and decided he didn’t like the fishing.

After the 2006 season, as Alabama began trolling for a new coach, Fisher was offered a contract to be head coach at UAB. Alabama’s Board of Governors, which oversees both, vetoed the deal because they did not have a coach and were afraid Fisher would upstage Bear Bryant U. Rich Rodriguez was offered the job but turned it down. Steve Spurrier took a call but wasn’t interested. Jim Grobe and Paul Johnson were reportedly on the list of prospects with Saban.

After Saban completed his second season with the Fish and finally accepted the job he long denied, he offered Fisher an opportunity to rejoin him.

Fisher instead signed with Papa Bowden.

In a relatively short time, Dabo and Jimbo have cultivated the kind rivalry John Swofford anticipated when FSU joined the league.

It’s not petty or egocentric or noisy.

Both programs recruit many of the same players, some in FSU’s backyard, but the garden is huge and prolific and Clemson isn’t the only poacher.

Their three games have been worthy, Fisher winning the two in Tallahassee and Swinney with a chance to hold serve again. Clemson has a better defense than it took to Florida State last season, and still has Tajh Boyd in No. 10. FSU’s secondary will be the best Clemson has seen. And Jameis Winston hasn’t shown any sign of cracking under the pressure, so it may require more than 82,000 in Death Valley to make his knees knock.

Sammy Watkins may be beyond jacked for what could be his final game against Florida State. As a freshman he caught seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Last year, just coming off the suspension, he threw a touchdown pass but didn’t do much as a receiver, so there’s additional motivation – beyond the undefeated season, the potential ACC Championship and the possibility of playing for the national championship.

Not long ago Watkins revealed that the players from Florida State are among the best trash talkers.

It’s an accepted means of showing respect, though it’s nothing you’d repeat to your mother – or Santa Claus.



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