No. 4 Clemson braces for Seminoles, shot at ACC crown
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CLEMSON, S.C. -- It's a huge game for No. 4 Clemson. It might mean even more for struggling Florida State.
The one-time game of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference is now just the latest stepping stone for the Tigers (8-1, 6-1 ACC, No. 4 CFP ) in their path toward the league title game and College Football Playoff. The Seminoles (3-5, 3-4), twisting through a season of injuries and underachievement , are seeking one final big splash to show they're not that far off from the powerhouse program they were projected to be when the year began.
"Clemson's got the hype right now. They're in the top four (in the CFP) right now," Florida State cornerback Levonta Taylor said. "Just going to go out there do what we can do, play the best Florida State football we can play."
And most years, that usually means problems for opponents.
"We'll get the very best version of Florida State this week," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said flatly.
The Tigers should at least get a version that might have some momentum. Florida State snapped a two-game losing streak with a 27-24 win over Syracuse (the only team to beat Clemson this year) a week ago. The victory didn't solve everything that's gone wrong in a season that began with Florida State projected to win the ACC and potentially play for a national title.
It did, however, give the Seminoles a burst of confidence to carry into Death Valley.
"We'd better build on it quick, because we play a great team this week, play one of the top four teams in the country," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant said he and other new offensive starters are eager to close out league play with a third straight ACC Atlantic Division, but first title with the new group on the field.
"Really excited for this game," Bryant said.
Some other things to watch for when No. 4 Clemson faces Florida State:
ORANGE PANTS: If Clemson's playing for a title, it's wearing orange pants. It's a tradition coach Dabo Swinney saves for the most important games. The players notice, saying they feel an extra level of anticipation knowing they're playing in a game that could lead to hardware. The Tigers last wore orange pants when they defeated Alabama 35-31 to win the national championship in January. "You don't just get to wear those," Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant said. "It has a special meaning to it. It means we are playing for hardware."
NOVEMBER WINS: Florida State has been tops in the ACC since 2010 when it comes to winning after October. The Seminoles are 33-7 in November, December and January games the past six seasons.
SERIES TURN: Florida State had its way with Clemson for more than 30 years, going 14-2 against the Tigers from 1970-2002. Starting with the surprise 26-10 upset in 2003 when son Tommy Bowden's Tigers dealt his father Bobby Bowden's third-ranked Seminoles a blow to their national title hopes, Clemson has won eight of the 14 matchups since including six of the last seven at Death Valley.
BOWL STREAK BOOST: Florida State got a boost to continuing its streak of 35 consecutive bowl games when it announced its game with Louisiana-Monroe, previously cancelled due to Hurricane Irma last September, would be played Dec. 2. That gives the Seminoles and extra chance to gain the six wins necessary to make the postseason. After Clemson, Florida State plays Delaware State and rival Florida before its rescheduled contest. Florida State has not missed a bowl since 1976.
ACC ATLANTIC: A Clemson win means that either the Tigers or the Seminoles have won the Atlantic Division every year since 2009. Boston College in 2008 was the last team other than Clemson or Florida State to represent the Atlantic in the title game.
AP Sports Writer Joe Reedy contributed to this report from Tallahassee, Florida.
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