High stakes game

CLEMSON - If recent history is an indication, plenty of stakes are on the line when Clemson and Florida State get together.

In each of the last three seasons, the winner of the annual showdown has gone on to win the ACC Atlantic Division title and earned the right to play for the conference crown.

Starting in 2009, Dabo Swinney's first full year as head coach, Clemson beat Florida State 40-24. The Tigers clinched spot in the ACC title game for the first time in school history, but went to lose to Georgia Tech.

A win at Florida State in 2010 would have given Clemson back-to-back Atlantic Division championships, but a 55-yard field goal as time expired by Dustin Hopkins pushed the Seminoles over the top with a 16-13 win.

The Tigers' 35-30 win began an impressive five-game run over ACC foes as Clemson would go on to beat Virginia Tech for the conference championship in December.

Though it's still September, this year's game has all the makings to be another good one.

For starters, the nation has been invited to watch No. 9 Clemson take on No. 4 Florida State slug it out. Not only will Tallahassee be the host site of ESPN'S College GameDay, the Tigers and Seminoles are scheduled for an 8:12 o'clock kickoff on ABC.

Might Saturday's game determine who's in Charlotte this December taking on one of the teams from the ACC Coastal?

"To be honest with you, Clemson and Florida State should be two of the best teams in the country, really. That's, hopefully, where we're headed," Swinney said. "Hopefully, it will always be that way."

Plenty will be watching on Saturday night, including a number of high school prospects who could one day be players in the annual grudge match.

"We are always competing against each other," Swinney said, "At least we should."

At this stage of the game, it's rare that Clemson and Florida State aren't truly battling for a highly-rated senior. Montravius Adams and Mackensie Alexander are the closest examples for the 2013 haul, but neither appears to be all that serious about the Seminoles.

Several highly-regarded players from the 2014 class have expressed interest in the two ACC Atlantic powerhouses.

Clemson quarterback commitment Deshaun Watson is considering Florida State, among others. Originally marked down as a visitor for the game, he is not scheduled to visit Florida State this weekend.

Georgia wide receiver commitment Demarre Kitt visited Clemson earlier this year for the Tigers' home opener. He'll be in Tallahassee on Saturday for his third Clemson game of the season.

Others like Mason Cole, Andrew Williams, Khairi Clark, Shaun Hamilton and Quin Blanding are just a few of the 2014 prospects with offers from both Clemson and Florida State.

More are certain to enter the equation.

"We all know that our footprint in South Carolina, we don't have a huge population, we don't have a huge number of division one players, like they do in that state," Swinney said. "Obviously, we've got to go on their turf a lot and do a bunch of recruiting. We've had great success, but we don't get them all, by any stretch of the imagination, and they don't either. It will always be a competitive situation."

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