Dabo previews No. 1 Florida State

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews Clemson's trip to Tallahassee.

Opening statement...
Swinney: Excited to get back at it this week. Not often you get an open date this early in the season. That's kind of how it fell for us this year. A huge challenge for us as we head to Tallahassee to talk on the No. 1 team in the land. Great opportunity to compete with the best team in the country. On the road. Let's see if we can show some improvement since the last time we were on the road. I don't think we have to play perfect, but we obviously have to play well.

It's not just a conference game. It's a division game. Looking at them offensively, they do a great job of being balanced. They have a lot of explosive plays. They do a lot of play-action and have success. Their offensive line is all seniors. All athletic. They only lost one guy from last year. This is a real good matchup watching their offensive line and their defensive line. Obviously their quarterback is the Heisman guy. He's a great player and really doesn't have any weaknesses. Big. Strong. Runs it effectively. I don't think he gets enough credit for being effective with his legs. He's very capable. Very smart. Great instincts and has a great feel for the game. We've got our hands full with that guy.

Their tight end is an All American. Great football player. They involve him in a lot of different ways. They play three running backs - all dangerous. Williams is 230 pounds and can run away from you. Then two young guys behind him that are explosive and fast. Receivers - same thing. Have about eight guys who can all play. Few freshmen who can all play. It all starts with No. 80 for them (Rashad Greene). He's a great football player. Really is. He's got a chance to set every record down there from a receiving standpoint. Very smart and crafty player with great short area quickness. All of those guys. Ton of respect for them.

Defensively, it's another great group. Really big up front. They are in and out of their three and four man down type stuff. They will do some two-gap stuff. Big, strong physical guys up front. Excellent at linebacker. Bunch of guys that started for them back. As good as a secondary as we've seen all year. Deep group. They will be in the nickel and dime stuff and they just roll them in there.

Special teams - dangerous group. This is a group that has the Groza Award winner back at kicker. Punter is back. Return guys are dangerous as well.

Not a lot of weaknesses when you look at Florida State. Really sound. Good experience all over the field. Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback and he's earned it.

As far as the open date is concerned - we are healthy. Guys were excited to be back at practice. Florida State has won 18 games in a row. It's been a long time since someone has knocked them off. We are up next. We are excited to be a part of this game.

You've been in a number of big games the last few years, how do you prepare a team from getting too jacked up?
Swinney: It's not about any of that. That's what people want to talk about. But it's about how you play the game. You draw on the experience you have in the room. We've played in eight top 12 games in our last 18 games. We played four top 10 games last year. They understand how you have to play. We've won our share and when we haven't won they understand why. You draw on that experience and make sure guys are focused on the right thing. And hey - we had to go up and open the season in Athens. Hopefully we are further along now.

Jimbo [Fisher] mentioned yesterday that this had become a rivalry game for them. To have it so early in the season, is that a little odd.
Swinney: It's definitely a rivalry game. It's conference, but it's division. For us it's all about winning the league. If we can win he league then we have a chance to do things nationally. It's huge from that standpoint. But it is just our first conference game and it is for them. This early in the season you have to have perspective. Because you have 12 games and they are all critically important to the big picture. You have to be careful if you win this game, and you have to be careful if you don't win it. All we know right now is we've played two games and who knows? You never know. Auburn last year lost a game at this time and wasn't even ranked. So who knows?

What needs to happen to be the first team to beat Winston?
Swinney: We need to take care of the football. We have to win the turnover margin. When we've lost to these guys, that's been a problem. Create some turnovers and take care of the ball. We have to win the big play margin. Those explosive plays are a huge part of winning this game. When we've won, we've been good in those two areas. We've got to be excellent in special teams. And quite frankly our best players have to play well.

They beat you over the top last year but how did you feel at the point of attack?
Swinney: I thought we actually played pretty well on both sides. I thought we played pretty well on the offensive line and the defensive line. If you really sit down and watch the game and you know what you are looking at, it changed quickly. Obviously I was disappointed with the turnovers. We didn't respond to adversity. It was a 17-7 game and we had the ball twice, once inside the 25. If you just score on one of those possessions it's a different mojo. We didn't respond. And so everything changes on both sides. In the trenches, we played solid. We just didn't really... (do anything else). We never gave ourselves a chance to get it there. Football is about 11 guys doing their job and caring about each other. Having a high level of accountability is critical.

Do you enjoy competing against these guys?
Swinney: Absolutely. We want to be the best. We want to be the best in the country. It's been difficult. We've beaten everybody except Florida State and South Carolina. We finished 7th in the country last year but you can't feel good about it because your two biggest rivals finished No. 1 and No. 4. I was proud about what Florida State accomplished last year. I was tomahawk chopping in the National Championship game. With two hands. We couldn't be there. I was proud of them. We are going to get there. It's definitely a journey. We'll get there.

You said last year if you played these guys 10 times you'd win five. Do you believe that still?
Swinney: I don't know. We've only played two games. Last year we were 6-0. I made that statement - and Lord have mercy we caught enough grief on that. I gave an answer that I truly believed about last year's team. It was nothing negative. Jimbo and I talked about it - there was nothing negative at all. The team we had last year - if we went at it - I believe that now. I really think we had a heckuva a football team. We finished seventh in the country. There ain't a lot of difference between one and 15 to be honest with you. It's a play here or there. It's football. Things can snowball. After two games I don't know who we are. Let's figure this thing out. It's real bullets when you line up and play college football. We are going to find out a little bit in the month of September and that's it. At the end of last year, we were what I thought we were - a really good football team. We were seventh in the country.

Last week your younger players were very productive. We didn't see them in week one. Are they more ready this week?
Swinney: Absolutely. Level of competition is obviously different. You never know how freshmen are going to react until you get them there.

Last year's rushing numbers were pretty close but Winston threw for over 400 yards. How do you stop that?
Swinney: The biggest thing is we have to contest more plays. They threw a hitch for a 75-yard touchdown. A hitch. A four-yard completion. Totally uncontested. Missed tackle. 75 yards. We have to start playing with more confidence. These guys are very athletic. We matchup better from a back-end standpoint. We have to get pressure on the quarterback. We have to mix our coverages and make him uncomfortable. At the end of the day, the guy won the Heisman Trophy for a reason. For a redshirt freshman and walk in that environment and play like he did - you tip your hat to him. And you know what? He did all year to everybody he played. First time he looked like a freshman was the national championship.

Have you ever faced a team as a three-touchdown underdog?
Swinney: Yes. You can't pay any attention to that stuff. I mean, if you did you'd all be going crazy around here. We have won seven top 11 games as a head coach and I bet we were underdogs in all of them. We were underdogs to Virginia Tech twice one year and won both when we were underdogs. I mean, we watch Boston College smash Southern California! We love that. That's why we watch. I think we won the National Championship in 1992 and we were two touchdown underdogs going in and we beat them 34-14. But here's the deal, we didn't think of ourselves as underdog. Y'all see us as underdog. We don't. College football is the best thing going on out there. It's young people and young people can be influenced by so many things. But man it's fun. I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. This is my 20th year coaching and 25th year in college football - being in games like this. Clemson- Florida State. Auburn- Alabama. It's awesome.

Do you embrace this quarterback controversy taking place?
Swinney: It's not a controversy. It's a great situation is what it is. We are very blessed at quarterback at Clemson. Fans draw their own conclusions. And that's ok. I'm glad we are having the conversation because that means we have a very special freshman who has played very well. That part is great. Now just because you see that you want him to play all the time but you only see part of it. We've got a starter who has played great. You have to have credibility in your program. You don't just make people starters based on potential. Deshaun hasn't won the job yet. He may. His first week and a half of camp it was bad. He didn't win the job. You can't win the job based on potential. I'm not afraid to start a freshmen. Not afraid of that at all. Best players play. You have to give guys opportunities. Told you up front we are going to play him because of what we see in practice. I agree with Coach Morris 100 percent. I watch everything. Every snap. Every decision. We have a guy that won the job. Wasn't given the job. He earned it. He's played very well. He has to continue to do that. It's a constant evaluation on where we are. We will see how it goes and continue to evaluate it.

So if you get a guy who has the hot hand you'll stay with him?
Swinney: Absolutely. I think that's managing the game.

Do you need to play Deshaun to win his game?
Swinney: I don't know. I have no idea. I just know we are going to play him. We think he brings something to the table that's a little different.

As Deshaun earned more playing time with his efficiency?
Swinney: No we will continue to manage the situation we have. It's easy to say that but then you aren't giving Cole any credit to how's he played.

Is there a scenario where you could slow it down Saturday night?
Swinney: When we are trying to milk the clock. Otherwise we are who we are. We have a philosophy that we are fully committed to.

Is Jameis Winston even better this year?
Swinney: Well it's scary. Now he's even more confident. He was a pretty confident dude last year. Now he's even more so. Physically he's tough. And he doesn't get enough credit for his football instincts. That's the way the great ones are. The run that he made in the Oklahoma State game, you saw his will to win. He had that competitive drive.

How do you prepare your defense to face him?
Swinney: We have to play sound. You have to play discipline in your rush lanes. You can't sit there and lineup in one thing or he's going to be beat you. You have to create pressure. The plays don't work good when guys are getting whipped.

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