Florida State at Clemson
When the Seminoles joined the ACC in 1992, the Tigers seemed to be their most natural intraleague rivals: Clemson's brutal defense-first style figured to be a perfect foil for sleek, finesse-oriented Florida State. The Tigers were also supposed to be the Seminoles' perfect partners in elevating the ACC to something close to the lofty status enjoyed by the neighboring SEC. But while Florida State has won its first 24 games in conference play, Clemson has fallen so far that last season the Seminoles scheduled the Tigers as their homecoming opponent. "Let's face it," says Tommy West, Clemson's second-year coach, "when we went down to Tallahassee last year [a 17-0 Seminole victory], we weren't expecting to win. All we were looking for was a little respect."
The Tigers' 5-6 finish last fall marked just their second losing season since 1977. The program had declined so much that West took only 58 scholarship players, including five true-freshman starters, into last year's game against Florida State. Clemson has more depth this year, but West will nonetheless start one true freshman on Saturday. Before last season West had last glimpsed Florida State in 1989, when he was a Clemson linebacker coach. That season the Tigers defeated the Seminoles 34-23 in Tallahassee. "Back then we were almost on an equal footing," says West, "and there was nothing that told me this wasn't going to be a great rivalry for a long, long time."