CHARLOTTE – Just a few short years ago, the ACC Atlantic Division ran through Florida State.
But Clemson has been the cream of the crop in the conference of late, and the Seminoles are trying to get back to where they once were – on top.
In order for that to happen, FSU head coach Willie Taggart knows what his program must do. It’s simple, but much easier said than done – take down the Tigers.
Taggart’s team will have a chance to do just that when it travels to Death Valley to face Dabo Swinney’s bunch this season on Oct. 12.
“You’ve got to beat them,” Taggart said Wednesday at the 2019 ACC Football Kickoff at the Westin Charlotte. “We’re going to have an opportunity to go up there, and that’s the only way you’re going to gain that back – you’ve got to beat them. You can’t go and just compete and all that, you’ve got to beat them. That’s what they did to gain it, and that’s what we’ve got to do to get it back.”
FSU defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, an honorable mention All-ACC performer as a sophomore in 2018, echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“You’ve got to win,” he said of what FSU needs to do to supplant Clemson in the ACC. “That’s all you’ve got to do. Winning is the key to success, especially in this sport. You win, you earn the status back. That’s all it is.”
For Wilson, the pain of FSU’s 59-10 loss to Clemson last season in Tallahassee still stings, and he is hoping for a different outcome this year in upstate South Carolina.
“What I remember most is just when the clock hit zero,” Wilson said, reflecting on the blowout loss to the Tigers. “I’ll never forget that feeling, and when we go down to Clemson this year, I’m going to have that same feeling.”
Since winning three straight ACC Championships from 2012-14, Florida State has seen its foe Clemson claim the last four from 2015-18.
The gap between Clemson and the rest of the conference appears rather large, thought Taggart believes the ACC is deeper than it might seem.
“I think if you look around our conference, we’ve got a pretty good conference with some really good football teams,” he said. “Week in and week out, you’ve got to come ready to play. I don’t think there’s an easy game in our conference. As you go through the season, you’re going to see some tough games.
“I think that’s another reason why Clemson is good. They’re facing great competition each and every week, too. We probably don’t get as much credit as others, but we have a pretty darn good football conference, and I think teams around the conference are getting better year in and year out and I think you’re going to continue to see that.”
Taggart knows how hard it is to win in the ACC, having gone 5-7 in his first season at the helm at FSU, and has a lot of respect for what Swinney has accomplished at Clemson.
“He’s a hell of a football coach, and he’s built a fantastic program,” Taggart said. “You watch him from day one from when he started and the little struggles that he had, but he stayed true to who he was and continued to build it the way that he wanted to, and now they’re reaping the benefits from it.”