College Sports

Clemson’s dominance has turned FSU series into less of a rivalry

Does anybody remember when Florida State-Clemson mattered?

OK, that might be a tad of a stretch; these two teams were battling for ACC Atlantic (and, really, ACC) supremacy this very decade.

But after Clemson backed up a 59-10 victory in Tallahassee last year, which was FSU’s worst home loss ever, with a 45-14 throttling of the Seminoles on Saturday, one has to visit the record books to recall when this rivalry last had some heat to it.

The No. 2 Tigers won their fifth consecutive game in the series, extending their school-record streak against Florida State and winning their 21st straight contest.

“It’s definitely great to be on this side of it,” said Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, who grew up around FSU when his father Brad was an assistant there. “It’s not easy. It hasn’t been easy in all five of those games. I know the last two we’ve been able to have a lot of success, but (Swinney) reminded our guys of when they were able to beat us here six years ago.”

Over the last three years, the scoreboard has been way too one sided to constitute an actual conference rivalry: 135-38. To put that in perspective, South Carolina, Clemson’s in-state rival, has lost by an average of 22.5 points per game to the Tigers the previous two seasons.

For two years, FSU has lost by an average of 40 points.

This series hasn’t seen dominance like this since the Seminoles won every game against the Tigers from 1992-2002. Clemson only kept those losses to a touchdown or less three times during that span.

Is that where the current state of this rivalry is headed?

Florida State hasn’t been the same as a program since former quarterback Deondre Francois was knocked out for the season in the 2017 opener against Alabama, beginning a free fall that saw former coach Jimbo Fisher resign before the final game of the regular season and land at Texas A&M just weeks later.

Fisher, who won the 2013 national championship with FSU and was 4-4 against Dabo Swinney while in Tallahassee, left a program in turmoil for current head coach Willie Taggart. The Seminoles missed a bowl game for the first time in 36 years in his first season. Now they’re 3-3 overall and fighting for position in a muddled, mediocre middle tier in the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, Clemson has won two of the last three national championships, four-consecutive ACC titles (with the fifth likely coming) and six games over FSU this decade.

“Our next goal is to win the division,” Scott said. “For a long time, Florida State is one of those teams you’ve got to go out and play well against and beat to have a chance to play for your division.”

The “Bowden Bowls” of the late 1990s and early 2000s feel like distant memories. Even a Jameis Winston-led 51-14 thrashing of the Tigers in 2013 seems like a lifetime ago in college football.

To sum up where these teams are, Clemson fans left in the second half Saturday like the Tigers were up five touchdowns on Boston College or Louisville.

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