CLEMSON — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney knows what’ll happen should the third-ranked Tigers start thinking about their showdown with Florida State instead of Boston College on Saturday.
“We’ll get beat,” he said flatly.
Goodbye, undefeated season and so long national title hopes.
Swinney this week will remind his Tigers (5-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) to keep their eyes on the Eagles (3-2, 1-1).
“Our only objective is to get to 6-0 and we’ll worry about the next one after that,” Swinney said. “We have to stick with our formula.”
Still, that’s much easier to say than to do.
There’s plenty of signs people are already pointing toward the Clemson-Florida State blockbuster here on Oct. 19. The ACC announced the game would start at 8 p.m. on ABC, the prime-time slot for the weekend’s biggest contest. That means ESPN College GameDay will likely make a return trip to campus where they opened the season before the Tigers 38-35 win over Georgia.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and Florida State’s Jameis Winston each received league honors for last week’s performances: Boyd as offensive back of the week for his career-best 455 yards and five TD passes in a 49-14 win over Syracuse. Winston was freshman of the week for his 393 yards and five touchdowns in a 63-0 throttling of Maryland.
Swinney said he’s got several experienced leaders in senior Boyd and junior wideout Sammy Watkins who won’t let their teammates hone in on the Florida State game this week.
The sixth-ranked Seminoles probably won’t make that easy. They’re off this week and while coach Jimbo Fisher said his team will work on improving themselves instead of game plans, count on plenty of Florida State players to take aim at the Tigers.
“We can’t control the outside forces,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “All we have to do is turn on the tape of the last game and there’s plenty of things for us to work on.”
That sounds hard to believe for anyone who watched Clemson take apart Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.
The Tigers led 35-7 at the half and the Orange never got closer than 21 points. Morris said there were several series where the Tigers “didn’t even look like we knew what a football looked like.”
Boyd’s footwork was off at times, the offensive line didn’t handle Syracuse pressure well in the third quarter and the Tigers left at least two touchdowns on the field in the opening half, according to Morris.
All that will have to be cleaned up before Saturday.
“We were better last week than the week before,” Morris said. “We hope to be better Saturday than we were last week.”
Boston College has done its fair share to vex Clemson since it joined the ACC in 2005. The Eagles first league victory came in Death Valley that same season. Two years later, Boston College defeated Clemson here again, that time eliminating the Tigers from the ACC Atlantic title chase.
Clemson was a big favorite against a banged-up BC in 2010, yet left Chestnut Hill as 16-10 losers. A season ago, Clemson escaped Boston with a 45-31 a back-and-forth shootout victory.
To Tigers cornerback Bashaud Breeland, there’s no reason not to give Boston College the same amount, if not more, attention and preparation the team gives to opponents to all opponents.
“That’s what we’ve done all season and what we hope to keep doing,” Breeland said.
Boston College played toe-to-toe with Florida State last month before the Seminoles pulled away for a 48-34 victory. Eagles tailback Andre Williams ran for 149 yards in that one and first-year coach Steve Addazio says Williams and his team will bring the same grit into Death Valley.
“We’re going to be who we were against Florida State,” Addazio said. “We’ve really played some pretty good football teams so far. That’s going to help us.”
It will be a difficult task for Clemson’s players to fully lock out the Florida State buzz around campus. Breeland, though, has a fool-proof line he’ll use if someone in class wants to chat him up about the Seminoles before Sunday.
“I don’t even know who we’re playing next” after Boston College, he said with a smile.