No. 22 Clemson hopes to upset No. 1 Florida State
Swinney said the 22nd-ranked Tigers (1-1) have practiced with confidence and urgency in prepping for the Seminoles (2-0), their Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and the perception they have less chance of winning this time than a year ago in their 51-14 Death Valley debacle.
Clemson is a 20-point underdog, a massive margin for a game between ranked opponents.
Swinney recalled his senior season at Alabama in 1992 when the Crimson Tide were two-touchdown underdogs to No. 1 Miami. But Alabama won the national title game, 34-13.
''Here's the deal: We didn't think of ourselves as underdogs, and this team doesn't see themselves as underdogs,'' he said Tuesday.
Still, it likely takes orange-tinted glasses to give the Tigers much hope against the Seminoles.
A year ago, the team was led by record-setting quarterback Tajh Boyd, an NFL first-rounder in receiver Sammy Watkins and 1,000-yard rusher Rod McDowell - all gone from the offense. While Florida State has had its share of players moving to the NFL, Winston's steady hand is back in control and looking to build on an 18-game win streak in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both clubs.
Even worse for Clemson is the game's location in Tallahassee where the Tigers are 3-11 all-time with its last win coming in 2006.
''I'm sure that nobody outside of Clemson believes that we can win this game,'' defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. ''But we feel like we can win every game. That's our mindset.''
Clemson is still in transition, especially on offense with new quarterback Cole Stoudt and a new cast of receivers to fill in for Watkins and fellow NFL draftee Martavis Bryant. The group looked confident their first half at Georgia this season, picking up 276 yards. But the Tigers floundered down the stretch, gaining only 19 yards and one first down the rest of the way in a 45-21 loss.
The Tigers cranked up the attack a week later for a 73-7 win over Football Championship Subdivision opponent South Carolina State, which offensive coordinator Chad Morris saw as a confidence builder headed into Florida State.
Both the Tigers and the Seminoles had last week off to prepare for the contest, where the winner has gone on to the ACC Atlantic title and the league championship game since 2009.
All Swinney has heard since they last played was how the Tigers can't beat Florida State. He tunes it out and believes his players have, too.
''Good Lord, if you pay attention to that stuff, we'd all be going crazy around here,'' he said. ''I mean, we've won seven top-11 games since I've been the head coach I be you we were the underdog in all of them.''
Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams said the Seminoles aren't taking Clemson lightly, despite the new faces on offense. ''It's a big test, it's going to be just as good as Oklahoma State,'' he said.
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher has prepared for two Clemson quarterbacks in Stoudt and freshman Deshaun Watson. While Stoudt is more of a drop back passer, Watson is a dual threat to run and pass. Watson leads the Tigers with four touchdown passes.
Swinney has talked down any quarterback issues, solidly behind Stoudt as the starter and Watson as a promising newcomer who deserves some time. ''It's not a controversy, it's a great situation is what it is,'' Swinney said.
Every Tiger musts step up if Clemson can pull off the upset. Florida State has its flaws, even if those don't show up too often, Swinney said.
''They're not robots. They're humans,'' Swinney said. ''But you've got to find a way to win those competitive match ups. Because at the end of the day, it's a simple game. If we go down there and we don't win the turnover margin and they have more big plays, it's probably going to be a long night for the Tigers.''