(Photo credit: Gannett-USA TODAY NETWORK)
Florida State dropped one spot in The Associated Press Top 25 poll this week, but the No. 4 Seminoles will seek something this Saturday that extends far beyond a September ranking.
Atlantic Coast Conference front-running dominance.
After all the offseason headlines about being one of the top upcoming teams in the country, the Seminoles (3-0, 1-0 ACC) can validate the hype when they visit the Clemson Tigers (2-1, 0-1) on Saturday in a high-stakes, high-noon showdown in Clemson, S.C.
FSU opened as a slight road favorite after a season-opening, 45-24 decimation of then-No. 5 LSU, a 66-13 home rout of Southern Miss, and then a narrow 31-29 victory at Boston College last week.
Up by 21 points early in the second half against BC, Seminoles coach Mike Norvell watched the lead nearly evaporate and his team become slightly undone.
"There were times, I thought, where guys started to press," said the fourth-year FSU head coach. "There were some frustrations."
But now it's Clemson Week: a game-circled bout pitting Florida State against the ACC's champion in seven of the past eight seasons.
Despite an awful Week 1 loss at Duke, which some feel exposed Clemson's weaknesses and possibly hinted at the program's decline, coach Dabo Swinney's group has one major advantage entering Saturday's game.
The Tigers have won four straight home matchups with FSU at Memorial Stadium -- forebodingly nicknamed Death Valley -- and own seven consecutive victories in the series.
FSU most recently triumphed over the Tigers on Sept. 20, 2014, in a 23-17 overtime win in the Florida panhandle.
"Everybody knows this is a big game," Norvell said Monday. "You've got a team for the last however many years (leading) the ACC and how they've played and what they've done.
"But I'm not sitting here just talking about Clemson. It's about us. It's about how we play."
Clemson has not started 0-2 in conference play since 2010 after losing to Miami and North Carolina. That Swinney-led team, his third one, finished 6-7 and lost in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Saturday will be all about preventing that scenario from repeating itself.
Quarterback Cade Klubnik accounted for four touchdowns, and the defense scored in Saturday's 48-14 home win over Florida Atlantic.
Across three outings, Klubnik has completed 71 of 107 passes for 693 yards and eight TDs, with two interceptions.
Defensively, Clemson held the Owls to 293 total yards and to a 6-for-18 effort on third down while picking off three passes and recovering a fumble.
Up front, the Tigers' defensive line limited the American Athletic Conference team to 83 rushing yards on 36 attempts (2.3-yard average).
"Defensively, (we) set the tone," said Swinney, whose Tigers were stunned 28-7 by Duke in their ACC opener. "Obviously, the first two games we were just horrendous. ... We're a really hard team to beat when we tie the turnover margin, and we're really, really hard to beat when we win it. We settled in and really defended the ball well and got after them up front."
Florida State leads the all-time series against Clemson 20-15.
--Field Level Media