CLEMSON - Four wins, five losses against the defending national champion. That's not such a bad historical mark for Clemson.
Of course, we must infuse context. The Tigers are a mighty 3-0 dethroning the king when the king comes to Clemson: Georgia (1980), Georgia Tech (1991) and Auburn (2011) all were felled at Death Valley the season after claiming an NCAA title.
Penn State also went down in the 1988 Citrus Bowl, an entire year after capturing its own crown.
But when Clemson visits Doak Campbell Stadium three months and two days from today, it'll be attempting something it's never done before: knock off the champ on its own field.
In fact, the last time Clemson took its shot at the reigning titlist came on that very same field, 14 years ago. And it, uh, did not end well the night of Nov. 4, 2000: Bobby Bowden 54, Tommy Bowden 7, in a top-ten matchup gone awry.
The other four Clemson losses vs. the defending champ: 1954 at Maryland (16-0), 1966 at Alabama (26-0), 1977 to Pittsburgh (Gator Bowl, 34-3), and once more in Tallahassee, in 1994 (17-0).
By the by, I've taken the liberty of that math for you: Foes 113, Clemson 7 in four road games at the home of the defending champion. So there's ... that.
We gotta face facts: Florida State, right now on paper, looks every bit as scary as those glory years in the '90s. I picked up my Athlon preview magazine today, and they've listed an unbelievable SIX preseason first-team All-Americans repping the 'Noles. We'll dig into that below.
Best advice, Clemson fans: 4-5. Just remember that. Four and five. Never mind the location. 4-5.
Game 3: No. 22* Clemson at No. 1 Florida State, Sept. 20, time and TV TBD
Florida State coach: Jimbo Fisher (45-10, 5th season)
Returning starters: 13 (seven offense, six defense)
2013 record: 14-0, 8-0 ACC; national champion
Scoring offense: 51.6 points per game (2nd in FBS)
Scoring defense: 12.1 points allowed (1st)
Series: Florida State leads 19-8, including 11-3 in Tallahassee
Golden Nugget line: Florida State by 17
Three things to know about Florida State
1. The Noles are loaded: Or as Ace Ventura would say: luh-ho-ho-ho, huh-did. It's one thing to speculate a certain Heisman winner and headline machine could slump next year (more on that in a moment), but it's hard to see an entire team collapse unless there's fractures in the leadership structure. Those six Athlon summer All-Americans: quarterback Jameis Winston, tight end Nick O'Leary, guard Tre Jackson, tackle Cameron Erving, safety Jalen Ramsey and kicker Roberto Aguayo. Throw in receiver Rashad Greene, guard Josue Matias, defensive end Mario Edwards, cornerback P.J. Williams and kick returner Kermit Whitfield ... I mean, you try and find a weakness. Running back, maybe? Linebacker, if we're reaching? Whatever, you know Jimbo Fisher will figure it out. Again, only a lack of intangibles within the program - i.e. too many big heads and egos after winning it all - really can derail Florida State from dominating 2014.
2. Watching Mr. Winston: Let's recap Jameis Winston's life since Thanksgiving: accused of sexual assault, which led to public scrutiny of the Tallahassee PD's handling of the case and questions of whether Winston would be eligible for the BCS National Championship; said BCS National Championship; a scuffle on the baseball diamond with rival Florida; stole crab legs from Publix. History shows we as sports fans (and, ahem, media) love to build up heroes and tear them down just as quickly, so every move Winston makes on or off the field will continue to qualify as news, like it or not. Ask Johnny Football about all that ... but remember, Manziel rebounded nicely from winning college football's greatest individual trophy as a redshirt freshman and enjoyed a great sophomore year. Winston looks to do the same, with more help in an easier conference than Manziel.
3. Who's got next? Quickly, let's look at some of the key players FSU lost and who will step in for them. Big-man wide receiver threat Kelvin Benjamin (who made that sick touchdown catch over Darius Robinson to open the scoring last fall in Death Valley) is gone, but veteran Rashad Green remains ... goodbye tailbacks Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., hello converted safety Karlos Williams ... out with All-American center Bryan Stork, in with senior Austin Barron ... defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan leave a bit of a void at defensive tackle, as do Telvin Smith at linebacker and Lamarcus Joyner at cornerback. They'll be replaced by names like Nile Lawrence-Stample, Matthew Thomas and Ronald Darby. Tell you what: with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt having bolted for Georgia, maybe there's the slightest of chances the Seminoles' defense will be less than awesome. That's about the biggest critique you can realistically heap upon the champs. Well, besides questions of motivation to defend their kingdom.
Week before: Bye week
Next week: North Carolina
On the horizon: N.C. State, Louisville
Notice about comments: