Clemson coach Dabo Swinney isn’t sure which version of Florida State his No. 4 Tigers will see on Saturday.
Will his Tigers run into the Seminoles who were dismantled by Louisville, Pitt and N.C. State in their last three games? Or will they get the one that dealt North Carolina its only defeat of the season?
Suffice to say Swinney is prepping his team for the latter.
“I know their record is not what they want it to be, but they are improving greatly,” Swinney said of the Seminoles, who are 2-6 overall and 1-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. “They are figuring out their personnel. They’ve got a lot of young guys playing and they are competing. Those guys continue to lay it on the line.”
Clemson, which is coming off a bye week following its 47-40 double-overtime loss at Notre Dame on Nov. 7, enter Saturday’s game at 7-1 and 6-1 in league play. The Tigers haven’t lost back-to-back games since November of 2011.
The loss at Notre Dame ended the Tigers’ 28-game winning streak against ACC opponents, but Swinney said the Tigers are ready for a reset, particularly with standout quarterback Trevor Lawrence back in the fold. Lawrence missed the Tigers’ last two games with COVID-19 but is set to return to action Saturday at Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium.
“He’s chomping at the bit to play,” Swinney said. “He’s Trevor. He’s well-prepared and focused and really locked in. You know what you’re going to get from (No.) 16, there’s no doubt about that.”
Freshman D.J. Uiagalelei played well in Lawrence’s stead, passing for 781 yards and four touchdowns in his two starts, but Lawrence adds another level, which starts with his maturity and confidence.
“He is a special talent,” Florida State coach Mike Norvell said. “He’s a fun player to watch — not only the physical tools, but really the charisma that he brings and the leader that he is.”
While Clemson will have Lawrence back, the Tigers still won’t have top linebacker James Skalski for a fourth straight game with a groin injury. But Swinney is hopeful that multiple players who missed the Notre Dame game may return, including starting defensive tackle Tyler Davis and starting linebacker Mike Jones Jr.
“We had a much-needed break and we took good advantage of it,” Swinney said, “studying ourselves and getting some guys healthy. It has been a weekly challenge, just having consistency and continuity from week to week. The guys are eager to get back going. We’ve got 18 days left in our season. Anything you get after that you’ve got to earn.”
Clemson has dominated the series against Florida State in recent years, winning five in a row and 10 of the last 15. The last time the Tigers visited Tallahassee, in 2018, they dealt the Seminoles their worst home loss in school history (59-10).
“Our guys, they know the challenge that’s ahead,” Norvell said. “They know the football team that’s coming in here is an exceptional team in all aspects. They’ve got dynamic players all over the field.”
The Seminoles, who have been depleted by the early departures of wide receiver Tamorrion Terry and defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, will counter with counter with sophomore quarterback Jordan Travis, who is a dual-threat player who has had some bright moments.
“He’s a problem,” Swinney said. “We’ve not done a great job of containing the quarterback and getting him on the ground when have opportunities, and this guy is as good as we’re going to see.”
–Field Level Media