Clemson vs Florida State

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney (right) and former Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher will meet Saturday when the Tigers travel to Texas A&M, where Fisher is now the head coach. File/Gwinn Davis/Special to The Post and Courier

CLEMSON — As is the case every Sunday during football season, Dabo Swinney woke up with a plan the day after his Clemson football team opened the season with a 48-7 victory over Furman.

The coach would have his regular meetings with his staff, he would review the way his team played the afternoon before and he would immediately start thinking about the next game.

Typically, that would mean popping in film of his next opponent, which in this case is Texas A&M on Saturday, when Swinney and his second-ranked Tigers march into College Station for a highly-anticipated showdown with Jimbo Fisher and his Aggies.

And yet, Swinney is the first to admit: the Clemson coaches have watched very little film of Texas A&M.

Instead, Swinney and Co. have focused on film of Notre Dame. And Florida State. And Wake Forest. Three teams hundreds of miles away from Texas and not even in the same conference as Fisher's new bunch.

But that's by design.

"Last year's (Texas A&M) film is totally irrelevant to us," Swinney said. "So that's a little bit of a challenge."

It might seem counterintuitive on the surface that Swinney is preparing for Texas A&M by intentionally not watching much film from Aggies' games, but there is a method to everything the calculated coach does.

While Fisher has the luxury of knowing Clemson's staff and its tendencies, perhaps as well as any coach in the country, the same can't be said for the Tigers' knowledge of Fisher's team.

Fisher is in his first year with the Aggies after spending eight years as the head coach at Florida State. Swinney is much more interested in Florida State's schemes and methods under Fisher than he is with what the Aggies looked like under coach Kevin Sumlin last year.

He cares more about what new Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko did while at Wake Forest and Notre Dame than he does about how the Aggies' defense performed a season ago under a different coordinator.

And so, while it has been a little difficult to force himself to block out the Florida State and the Wake Forest and the Notre Dame jerseys, Swinney has forced himself to look at scheme and tendencies to get a feel for what he might see Saturday.

"Their defensive coordinator came from Notre Dame and he was a guy that was at Wake Forest and I was really, really happy when he left and went to Notre Dame because he was one of the best that we saw year in and year out," Swinney said of Elko.

"I have a lot of respect for Mike Elko," Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott added. "He's got a reputation for being one of the better defensive coordinators in the country."

As the hype around Saturday's game continues to build, certainly all eyes will turn to the matchup between two coaches who know each other so well from their ACC clashes.

Swinney said he believes Fisher has a little bit of an advantage when it comes to preparing for the game. But that has made the Tigers get creative and Swinney is hoping this unusual approach eventually pays off.

"This is like another (season) opener," Swinney said. "Unfortunately, I think the unknown is a competitive advantage for them."

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.

The Tigers are about to find out.

Follow Grace Raynor on Twitter @gmraynor

Grace is the Post and Courier's Clemson reporter. She graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in journalism.

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