CLEMSON, S.C. — After Clemson’s great escape against Boston College, the third-ranked Tigers can finally focus on No. 5 Florida State and the Atlantic Coast Conference’s first top-five showdown in eight years.
“It may be the biggest game in ACC history. We don’t know,” said defensive end Vic Beasley, who had a big scoop-and-score TD in the Tigers’ 24-14 victory Saturday. “But our goal is to win a national championship.”
It’s the league’s first matchup of top-five teams since No. 5 Miami defeated third-ranked Virginia Tech 27-7 in 2005. And Saturday night’s winner in Death Valley will have another impressive line on its résumé in the hunt for the national title.
“Obviously, we know it’s a big game, got a lot of national relevance, conference relevance and all that,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Sunday.
The Seminoles (5-0, 3-0 ACC) are well rested and confident, coming off a 63-0 victory over Maryland and then an open date last weekend. Clemson needed a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to remain undefeated.
Tajh Boyd rushed for a 6-yard score with 13:44 left to put the Tigers (6-0, 4-0) ahead for good. Linebacker Tony Steward sacked Eagles quarterback Chase Rettig, who coughed up the ball into Beasley’s waiting arms for a 13-yard touchdown.
When the final seconds ticked off, Clemson’s players could finally do what many fans have since the Tigers opened with a 38-35 victory over then fifth-ranked Georgia on Aug. 31 – talk about Florida State.
“Last year they got us, but I feel like we should have won. We’re looking for payback,” said Beasley, who has a career-best nine sacks so far this season.
Clemson was ahead 27-13 in Tallahassee last season in another top-10 matchup when the Seminoles rallied for a 49-37 victory.
Florida State hasn’t fared well the past decade at Death Valley, where it has not won since 2001 and the third Bowden Bowl matchup between the Seminoles’ Bobby Bowden and his Tiger son, Tommy.
Both Clemson and Florida State have high-powered offenses and relentless defenses. The Seminoles average nearly 54 points a game, about 10 more than the Tigers. Clemson leads the nation with 24 sacks
Both clubs feature skilled passers and Heisman Trophy contenders in Boyd and Florida State’s Jameis Winston.
Despite Clemson’s offensive mistakes against Boston College, Boyd threw for 334 yards for his 14th career game with more than 300 yards passing. He became Clemson’s career leader in passing yards, moving past Charlie Whitehurst.
Winston, a redshirt freshman, has taken college football by storm with his strong arm and leadership skills.
“He doesn’t look like any redshirt freshman I’ve ever seen,” Swinney said with admiration.
Winston has thrown for 17 touchdowns, two more than Boyd. Winston said he worked hard during the bye week to prepare for Clemson.
“They’re after our necks,” Winston said of the Tigers. “We beat them at our home field last year. They beat us at their home team the year before that. It’s just going back and forth battle.”
Boston College coach Steve Addazio expects nothing less. The Eagles led Clemson 14-10 entering the fourth quarter before finally wearing down. Boston College was on top of Florida State 17-3 early on when those teams played on Sept. 28 before the Seminoles won 48-34.
“It will be one of the better games of the year,” Addazio said. “They both have really good defenses and bot have two really good quarterbacks. Plain and simple, they are both really good football teams.”
Swinney says he and his team will approach things as they have all year: Prepare hard during the week and try and play the best they can when it’s time to kick off.
“If you really change from what you normally do, then you send the wrong message,” Swinney said. “I know it’s not that way for fans, but that’s the way it has to be for us to be consistent.”