Clemson anticipating big challenge

Clemson anticipating big challenge

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Clemson anticipating big challenge

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CLEMSON – Florida State is Florida State, says Dabo Swinney, and the Seminoles aren’t about to change their war paint based on who’s lining up under center.

“We’re preparing for Florida State, not a certain quarterback,” said Clemson’s eighth-year head coach.

Sean Maguire, who played second fiddle to Jameis Winston last season and Everett Golson this fall, took first-team snaps on Thursday, but Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was non-committal when asked who might start today when the Tigers and Seminoles meet in an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown at Memorial Stadium.

Florida State quarterback Sean Maguire looks to pass against Clemson last season as linebacker Stephone Anthony moves in.

Florida State quarterback Sean Maguire looks to pass against Clemson last season as linebacker Stephone Anthony moves in.

“He can play in the game,” Fisher said of Golson, who missed last week’s win at Syracuse after suffering a concussion on Oct. 24.

So Maguire will start?

“He can play in the game,” Fisher said with a smile.

Clemson, which is 8-0 and could wrap up the Atlantic Division title with a win, will face a challenge either way.

Playing in Winston’s stead last year against Clemson, Maguire threw for 304 yards and a touchdown. Reprising his role last week in Golson’s absence, he passed for 348 yards and three touchdowns in a win at Syracuse.

“Maguire has two starts and has passed for 10,000 yards in two starts,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “He did well against us last year and he did well last week.

“He looks very comfortable, then Goldson is dynamic in his own ways. He’s a runner and a thrower who has had success on the big stage. They present all kinds of challenges.”

Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, meanwhile, is sure to play after missing last week with a tweaked hamstring and ankle injury. He’s averaging 8.2 yards per carry and leads the ACC in rushing with an average of 148 yards per game.

“We have great respect for Florida State,” Swinney said. “This is a team that has been the best in our league the last few years. If we want the opportunity to be that, we’ve got to win this game, find a way to get it done. That’s easier said than done. There haven’t been many teams who have been able to do that.”

No question there. The Seminoles, who enter the game ranked No. 15 in the Amway Coaches Poll, have lost just one regular-season game over the past three years and have a national title and berth in the College Football Playoff to their credit during that span.

This year’s game represents a role reversal. Clemson has lost each of its last three games against Florida State and wound up looking up at the Seminoles in the standings at the end of each year.

This time around, Clemson is perched atop the College Football Playoff poll and is unbeaten; suddenly, the Tigers are the hunted rather than the hunter, if you will.

They are the undisputed kingpins in the ACC, and the fact that they share a division only heightens the importance of their annual clashes, with have been highly competitive of late.

Since the ACC went to divisional play and a championship game in 2005, Clemson and Florida State have split 10 games.

Both teams are built for success, fed by high-level recruiting classes that have become the norm at both schools.

And if recent history is an adequate indicator, today’s game should be a toe-to-toe slugfest sprinkled liberally with big plays and season-defining moments.

Let the fun begin.

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