COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Clemson and Texas A&M are not rivals. However, their respected head coaches are.
When Jimbo Fisher left Florida State to come to Aggieland last December, the first thing he did was take a peak at the Aggies’ 2018 schedule. He could not believe what he saw.
Week 2: vs Clemson at Kyle Field
“You’ve got to be (kidding) … really?”
Fisher’s old nemeses, Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers, were on the Texas A&M schedule for the 2018 and the 2019 football seasons, the first time the two schools met on the gridiron since splitting a home-and-home series in 2004 and ’05.
Though Saturday’s game in College Station, Texas is about No. 2 Clemson and Texas A&M, the game really has more to do with Dabo Swinney and Jimbo Fisher.
Since 2010, the two have been nearly joined at the hip in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Since Swinney became the Tigers’ head coach in 2009, either Clemson or Florida State have represented the Atlantic Division in the conference championship game.
Both won the division in their first years as head coaches—Fisher became head coach at FSU in 2010—and in their third season both won the ACC for the first time, Swinney in 2011 and Fisher in 2012. Fisher won three ACC Championships in a row from 2012-’14, while Swinney has won the last three.
Fisher and the Seminoles won the 2013 National Championship and earned a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2015. Clemson has played in the last three CFPs under Swinney, winning it all in the 2017 CFP and playing for the national championship in 2016.
Swinney, now in his 10th full season as head coach, is 102-30. Fisher, in his ninth full season, is 84-23. Head-to-head? Swinney has four wins, Fisher has four wins.
Just when it seemed like they were finally breaking free when Fisher left his Christmas tree at the curb in Tallahassee, the two coaches quickly realized their personal rivalry will continue for another two years.
“I can’t seem to shake him,” Swinney said laughing. “I’ll probably tell him that when I see him Saturday night.”
The two coaches have added to the rivalry in the days leading up tonight’s 7 p.m. kick. When asked about the atmosphere at Kyle Field and the 108,000 fans that our expected to be there, Swinney said at his weekly press conference, “the fans don’t play.”
Swinney later added, “They can yell and be loud and that’s great, but what has that got to do with doing your job? You need to do your job, or you can’t. It’s that simple.”
Though he was talking about his players’ needed approach for tonight’s game, indirectly, Swinney fired the first shot. His message, though probably taken out of context for good radio and columns, got back to Aggie fans and students, who are now wanting to prove to the Clemson coach just how much of a factor the 12th Man can be at Kyle Field.
Early Saturday morning, Fisher fired the second shot, and his was directed directly towards Swinney and the Clemson Tigers. He said during Midnight Yell Practice, which ESPN captured on Twitter, “I can’t wait to see all 108,000 of you. We will see how Clemson can handle that.”
And we will see exactly how Dabo vs. Jimbo IX plays out.