By Kaila Burns-Heffner.
Clemson faces off with the No. 1 team in the nation on Saturday at 8 p.m., and the 22nd-ranked Tigers are the clear underdogs.
Last year’s 51-14 loss in Death Valley to top-ranked Florida State was a difficult loss that carried the Seminoles on to the National Championship. In the last two years, Florida State has scored an average of 50 points and totaled an average 616 yards against Clemson.
If the Tigers (1-1) have a chance to upset the Seminoles and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston, the defense will have to execute better than it has in the last two meetings with FSU.
“I think we match up fine,” defensive tackle D.J. Reader said. “We match up everywhere good. Secondary matches up good, linebackers and front seven. There’s really no weakness in our defense, and their offense is good. So I think it will be all about everyone winning their one on one matchups in this game.”
This will be Clemson’s and the Seminoles’ ACC opener, but the big game atmosphere–with College GameDay on hand and a nationally televised audience–will not be new for either team. FSU opened the season with a primetime game with Oklahoma State in Arlington, Texas, while the Tigers played at Georgia in the season opener.
The experience of playing on the road against Georgia in the season opener should come in handy for the type of atmosphere Clemson will face in Tallahassee.
“Being down there in Athens, it is definitely a lot louder than its been anywhere else we’ve been really, so I think that experience will definitely help us when we go to Florida State,” Reader said.
The junior defensive tackle also said that, “after playing that Georgia game, we kind of had a reality check and we need to work hard. We need to grind, so it was definitely helpful.”
The Tigers are coming off of a bye week where they had the time to review film and practice with an intensity that Reader says has been noticeably increased since their loss to Georgia.
“It was really important, we were able to get more film on and understand what they’re doing with their offense, more formations and all that, so it was really good. We got to get more familiar with them,” he said.
The Tigers are determined to go into Saturday’s game with a strong mentality and level of intensity.They aim to go in and gain the respect that they feel some people are not giving them.
“I think since that reality check in the Georgia game, we’re just kind of trying to click and grind and practice is going to be intense. We know it is going to be intense. We want it to be intense,” Reader said. “Attention to detail is really important and we’re trying to take that step where we’re focused at all times when we get on that football field and we come to practice.”
“I think that will definitely help us and you’ll see a better Clemson team than you’ve seen the first two games.”