In recent years, the matchup between Florida State and Clemson has been a clash of heavyweights that decides the ACC Atlantic Division champion and, each of the last three seasons, a spot in the College Football Playoff.
This year, however, the Seminoles enter the matchup 3-5, struggling mightily on offense in the absence of starting quarterback Deondre Francois and in danger of seeing the nation’s longest active bowl streak come to an end.
If you heard Clemson coach Dabo Swinney talk at his Wednesday teleconference, however, you would have no idea of Florida State’s struggles this season.
Swinney insisted that the only difference between this year’s Seminoles squad and those of recent seasons is the team’s record. He said they are equally talented — and then went seemingly position-by-position through the starting roster to prove his point.
“I promise you, there’s no coach that’s going to turn on the tape and be excited about playing Florida State,” Swinney said. “They’ve got players everywhere.”
Swinney started his gushing with the Florida State offense, despite the fact that the Seminoles rank last in the ACC in both yards and points per game.
“These receivers are massive,” Swinney said. “I mean, No. 18, (Auden) Tate, he’s 6’5″, 225, 230 pounds, great ball skill guy. No. 89 (Keith Gavin), he’s 6’3″, 220 something. That No. 8 (Nyqwan Murray) is a great player. He’s not as big, but man, he’s a heck of a playmaker for them.”
“(Freshman running back Cam) Akers is considered the best back in the country coming out of high school, and man, he’s as advertised. He’s thick and strong, averaging five and a half yards a carry, very good player. Their tight end is an outstanding player, (Ryan) Izzo. They use him well. And then the quarterback (true freshman James Blackman) has just gotten better and better. He’s not a true freshman anymore.”
Swinney then kept the praise rolling for the Seminole defense. Most notably, he singled out the Florida State secondary, calling the bunch “some freaky dudes.”
“Defensively, they’ve got, I don’t know, one, two, three, four, five, six — they’ve got about nine or ten guys that started for them last year a number of games. A bunch of experience. They’ve got some freaky dudes in the secondary led by that No. 3, Derwin James.”
“No. 9, Josh Sweat, is a great football player. Ninety-one (Derrick Nnadi) is as good a D-tackle as we’ve seen. Ninety-nine (Brian Burns) is a great player. They’ve got a bunch of guys.”
While it’s certainly possible Swinney was simply trying to avoid giving the Seminoles any bulletin board material heading into the game, such praise from the defending national champion coach has to inspire some hope in the Seminole faithful.
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