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Swinney says 'records don't matter' in division battle with Florida State


by - Staff Writer -
Dabo Swinney said FSU is starting to hit its stride after winning three of its last four games.
Dabo Swinney said FSU is starting to hit its stride after winning three of its last four games.

CLEMSON – Just looking at its 4-3 record, the casual observer might not think Florida State won’t be a challenge for second-ranked Clemson, but head coach Dabo Swinney says not so fast.

The Seminoles got off to a slow start under first-year head coach Willie Taggart, but seem to be hitting their stride as of late and Swinney knows his team has a challenge on its hands at noon on Saturday in Tallahassee.

“We've got another big challenge ahead of us this week. Having a few days to dive into Florida State, they're still Florida State,” Swinney said during his Tuesday press conference. “I know their record is 4-3 right now, but they got off to a slow start - new coach, new systems and everything. I think it took them a couple of games to figure out who they are and to get in stride a little bit. They really should have probably won the last four in a row but they're 3-1 in their last four games and really starting to play some good football.

“Their record isn't same old Florida State but their talent is. I know this is my 10th year as the head coach and I'm 1-9 against them in recruiting rankings. The only time we out-recruited them was last year. They've got a bunch of cats - a bunch of good football players on that roster - and are really starting to hit their stride.”

Swinney said you can throw the record books out the window when the two teams play.

"Those first few games, they were figuring out who could do what. They have really settled in since. They were right there in a position to win the Miami game and led most of the game,” he said. “They're 3-1 in their last four. Records don't matter. If records mattered, Purdue wouldn't have defeated Ohio State. We lost to Syracuse last year and they won three games. That stuff doesn't matter. That's why you have to prepare and respect every opponent. If you don't think they've got talent, you're not paying attention. If recruiting rankings mean something, we're 1-9 against them."

The offense runs through quarterback Deondre Francois but the Noles also have a pair of running backs that are as good as there is in the country.

“Offensively (Deondre) Francois is a great player. They have great skill outside, two great running backs in Akers and Patrick. Patrick is like 235,” Swinney said. “Really good players. Francois is a good thrower. He's mobile. They've figured some things out up front in the offensive line as far as getting guys in the right place. That's something they were trying to figure out. They're really good at tight end. They have a freshman receiver who I think will be a special player. He's a 6-4 guy that looks a lot like Justyn Ross. They're typical Florida State.”

Florida State’s defensive line is riddled with four- and five-star players and defensive end Brian Burns is as good as Clemson will face.

“Definitely the best (defensive) ends we've seen. This defensive line they've got is really, really good,” he said. “No. 99 (Burns) leads the nation in sacks. He's long, fast, twitchy. They've got really good depth at defensive end and defensive tackle and they play them. Big, thick, physical, strong guys inside. Fast and athletic at linebacker. Really good in the secondary. Very skilled, very talented. They're one of the best in the country against the run.”

Clemson has only won twice at Florida State in recent memory – in 2006 and in 2016 – but Swinney said the win at Doak Campbell Stadium two years ago gives his team confidence in knowing that it can be done.

“It was something we hadn't done. We had only won there in 2006. We hadn't had a lot of success down there,” Swinney said of the 2016 win in Tallahassee. “It was something I hadn't done as head coach and we'd been so close. We'd had some bad things happen down there. It was something we hadn't done and we were able to get that done. It was a big deal for us. It was a huge part of that team's journey that year. It gives you a lot of confidence because you know you've done something. I'm not having to come in here in and answer questions. Is there voodoo there? I haven't gotten one question on it today. It eliminates all of that conversation. These guys know they can do t but they also know how difficult it is.”

If Clemson is able to knock off the Seminoles on Saturday, the senior class would be undefeated against Florida State, something no other ACC team has accomplished.

"That would be big. This is a prideful group aware of opportunities they have outside of our team goals,” Swinney said. “They have goals within goals and a lot of things they would love to do as a group. Certainly doing something that no other ACC team has done would be a great accomplishment for that group."

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