Florida State has its biggest challenge of the season Saturday.
The Seminoles (4-3, 2-3 ACC) host No. 2 Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC) at noon as one of three remaining Top-10 teams on the schedule.
“We have a great challenge in front of us here at home this Saturday versus the defending ACC champions, the Clemson Tigers and what an opportunity for us,” FSU coach Willie Taggart said.
“We’re really excited about it.”
The Tigers are a 16.5-point favorite to win the game.
It’s the largest spread FSU has faced this season and the largest home deficit has faced in over 30 years, according to covers.com. FSU was a 13.5-point underdog on the road against Miami earlier this month.
“That always motivates us,” FSU safety Stanford Samuels III said.
“We don’t really pay attention too much to what everybody says, but we hear whispers about the point spread and what it is and that does add a little bit of motivation for sure.”
The Tigers are more than just the defending ACC champions.
They’ve won the ACC the past three years and have made the College Football Playoff every year in that span, including winning the 2016 National Championship.
It’s Clemson, not FSU, that has set the bar in the ACC.
“Great opportunity for the Noles,” Taggart said.
“Looking forward to it against a really, really good football team, one of the best college football teams out there. You look at their defense, nine returning starters, very challenging.
“You hear everyone talk about Alabama, Clemson is right up there with them and they have been in the playoffs the last three years so great football team comes to Doak Campbell and we’re looking forward to it.”
Despite FSU’s struggles this season and the position that his team holds in the rankings, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney isn’t letting his team take the Seminoles lightly.
FSU had the ball with a chance to beat the Tigers in Tallahassee in 2016 and have been in the game in the fourth quarter the last two times FSU has played Clemson in Death Valley.
“Their record is not same ol’ Florida State right now, but their talent is,” Swinney told reporters.
“This is my tenth year as head coach, and I think I’m 1-9 against them in recruiting rankings. I think the only time we’ve ever so-called ‘out-recruited’ them was last year. That’s it. They have a bunch of cats… A bunch of good football players on that roster. Again, they’re really starting to hit their stride.”
The Seminoles have won three of their last four games, including a 38-17 victory over Wake Forest Saturday.
They played their best game of the season against the Demon Deacons, and are hoping to take some of that momentum into this match-up with no one giving them a chance to win.
“I’m looking forward to it,” FSU defensive end Janarius Robinson said.
“It’s a big opportunity for me and my teammates to come out here to show the country what we can do.”
The Seminoles know that in order to take down the Tigers, they’re going to have to play at a higher level than they have yet to achieve this season.
And they’re going to have to do it from start to finish.
“We’ve just got to go out there and play,” FSU quarterback Deondre Francois said.
“Last year, we wanted to win the game. This year, we want to win the game too. The difference is we’re at home and that’s one advantage that we have. We have to come out here and play in front of our home crowd and play like we know how to play.”
There’s much less national fanfare than normal surrounding this game with FSU’s poor start to the season dampening the hype surrounding the game.
But this is still a big game for both programs and Swinney is expecting Doak Campbell Stadium to be loud and rowdy despite the noon kickoff.
“This is Clemson-Florida State,” Swinney said on the ACC teleconference. “Are you kidding me?”
Florida State vs. No. 2 Clemson
When: Saturday, noon
Where: Doak Campbell Stadium
TV/Radio: ABC/103.1 FM