ACC needs Clemson-FSU rivalry

Some of the most memorable games in Clemson history have come against Florida State, both wins and losses.

And with two top-five teams facing off at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, fans of the two teams should be in for more of the same.

In short, it's a game the ACC needs to live up to all the hype that will build throughout this week. If the ACC is going to move up to the level of the SEC, Big Ten or Pac-12 (it's already even with or above the Big 12), it needs more of these games. But this is a good place to start.

This is the kind of week that will help the ACC lift its profile: a rivalry game between two highly ranked teams on national TV. And it doesn't look like that will change any time soon. Remember, both Florida State and Clemson were ranked in the top 10 at the time of last year's meeting, so maybe, just maybe, this will become a yearly showdown, ala LSU-Alabama for the SEC or Oregon-Stanford for the Pac-12.

The ACC needs that to happen. It would be nice if Miami got in the hunt on a yearly basis -- the Hurricanes are ranked 10th this week -- to give the ACC another highly ranked program to feature. The Hurricanes need to continue to play well, and if they do, the ACC could have another showcase game in a few weeks when the Hurricanes and Seminoles meet.

That was supposed to be the case when Miami joined the conference: the Hurricanes on one side and the Seminoles on the other, eventually playing in the ACC championship game. That hasn't materialized just yet, but to be fair, the Clemson-Florida State rivalry is just now developing into what the ACC needs it to be.

Florida State leads the all-time series 18-8, but a lot of the Seminoles' damage was done early, starting with a 38-13 win in 1970. The two teams met only twice more, splitting those games, until their Sept. 17, 1988 showdown in Clemson.

That game is widely remembered as the puntrooskie game, and it should be. That play and that call sealed a victory for the Seminoles right when it looked like Clemson had gained control. Sitting in the stands that day, it sure looked like the punt snap had sailed over the punter's head and Clemson would win the game. The Tigers had all the momentum in the world, but Florida State took it right back with one of the gutsiest calls college football fans will ever see.

The next year, the Tigers earned some revenge, this time in Tallahassee in a prime-time national TV slot. They dominated from start to finish and showcased the strong program Danny Ford had built. Sadly, that proved to be his final season with Clemson, and the Tigers struggled for years after that, especially against Florida State.

When Florida State joined the ACC, its first conference game was at Clemson in the Tigers' first-ever night game in 1992. It was a terrific game, and Clemson put up a good fight, but the Seminoles had Charlie Ward, and he proved to be the difference.

From there, things got ugly for Clemson as the Seminoles won 10 straight in the series, and a lot of those games were not even competitive. The first-ever "Bowden Bowl" was competitive in 1999 (FSU survived 17-14), but the next year Clemson was 8-1 entering the game only to give up more than 700 yards of offense and got walloped 54-7. Our older son, Ben, was about six weeks old for that game, and he my wife, Laura, and I attended the game. Luckily, Ben fell asleep entering the stadium and slept the entire game, even though we were sitting right next to the FSU band and heard a lot of the war chant.

At that point it just seemed Clemson would never be able to compete with Florida State. But Clemson finally made it a rivalry in 2003 with a 26-10 win and has won six of the past 10 meetings, including three straight, starting in 2005.

The two teams have split their past six meetings, and the home team has won each time. That bodes well for Clemson this week, and the Tigers should have the advantage of having played in one of these games already this season.

Clemson's win over Georgia won't affect the play once the game starts, but the Tigers should be ready for the build-up to the game, and they should be prepared for the environment Saturday night after going through something similar against the Bulldogs.

And what an environment it should be. The ACC just has to hope the game is able to match it.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.

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