“Their record is not the same old Florida State right now,” Swinney said. “But their talent is.”
The way Swinney sees it, he’s 1-9 against the Seminoles in recruiting.
“In my 10 years as a head coach I’m 1-9 against them in the recruiting rankings,” Swinney said. “They’ve got a bunch of good cats.”
Swinney’s “cats” aren’t bad, either.
Clemson, which is 5-5 against Florida State under Swinney, has won each of its last three games against the Seminoles, effectively supplanting Florida State as ACC kingpin.
Bidding to make it four ACC titles in a row, No. 2 Clemson is off to a 7-0 start and is well positioned for a fourth consecutive berth in the College Football Playoff as well, but the Tigers will take nothing for granted against a program with three national titles on its resume.
“It has been a game that has decided the (Atlantic) Division every year I’ve been here,” senior wide receiver Hunter Renfrow said.
And several before that. Clemson or Florida State has won the division title every year since 2009.
Clemson has a chance Saturday to become the first ACC team to defeat the Seminoles four consecutive years, which would be rather meaningful for a group of seniors intent on leaving a legacy.
“This is a very prideful group,” Swinney said. “There are a lot of things they would love to do as a group, including doing something no other ACC team has done.”
First-year Florida State coach Willie Taggart knows it will take his team’s best effort to date to avoid falling victim to the Tigers for a fourth straight time.
“You hear everyone talk about Alabama — Clemson is right up there,” Taggart said. “They have been to the playoffs the last three years. So a great football team comes to Doak Campbell.”
Florida State got off to an uncharacteristic start this season, including decisive defeats at the hands of Virginia Tech and Syracuse to open conference play. But the Seminoles appear to have righted the ship, winning three of their last four, with the lone defeat a one-point loss at then-No. 17 Miami.
Florida State also is coming off its most complete effort of the season in a 38-17 victory against Wake Forest.
Quarterback Deondre Francois passed for 353 yards and two touchdowns and running back Cam Akers rushed for 101 yards and two scores. The Seminoles’ defense had nine tackles for loss, including six sacks.
“They’re really starting to hit their stride,” Swinney said. “This is a dangerous football team that is figuring out their identity and buying into what Willie is trying to get them to do.
“But we’re excited about it. It’s always a great place to go play a ballgame.”
Taggart acknowledges that his team will have its hands full in Clemson, which is the only team in the nation to rank among the Top 10 in the country in total offense (ninth) and total defense (fourth).
Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence has made great strides in just three career starts and is coming off a 308-yard passing day in the Tigers’ 41-7 rout of No. 22 North Carolina State last week.
Sophomore running back Travis Etienne leads a potent Clemson running game, averaging 8.2 yards per carry while leading the nation in rushing touchdowns with 14. The matchup between the players in the trenches will likely reveal the winner.
“Our guys are just as talented as their guys are,” Taggart said. “So it helps. We knew going in that was going to be a strength for us — our d-line. So our offense gets some good competition against those guys, so they will be prepared.”
Said Swinney: “For us it’s the same old thing — another game for us within our division — and we want to stay in control of our division and not put ourselves at the mercy of something else happening.”