To say that Clemson has its work cut out for it this week is an understatement.
Florida State put an exclamation point on its preseason schedule with a 52-0 mauling of Wake Forest on Saturday. In the first three weeks of the season, the Seminoles have outscored their over-matched opposition 176-3. They've allowed no touchdowns and just 310 total yards - 156 to Murray State, 28 to Savannah State and 126 to Wake Forest. For the season they're 22-of-23 in the red zone, with 19 touchdowns.
The Tigers and their fans will arrive in Tallahassee this weekend for ESPN's full College Game Day treatment, with pre-game hype promising to be over the top in advance of a rare battle of two top-10 ACC teams.
Clemson's coaches and players were talking 'focus' and 'opportunity' after the Furman game on Saturday, carefully avoiding making any emotionally-charged statement that might provide a spark of extra motivation for their opponent. At one point, fifth-year senior Rashard Hall declined to answer what he interpreted as a 'leading' question. "Nah," he smiled, "I'm not going to say anything that might get me in trouble."
"It's going to be a challenge," said Tajh Boyd. "Coach told us earlier that this is big-boy ball right now. It's a test, but I think we'll be prepared for it. Going into the game, we need to have a great week of preparation and focus. It's going to be a hostile environment, but it's going to be fun."
Boyd will be front-and-center in Clemson's effort to upset the Seminoles. The Tigers will need big plays from their playmakers, and Boyd has shown over the past two seasons that he can deliver.
On Saturday, he showed that his maturity is catching up with his ability.
Asked about Boyd's biggest play of the game against Furman, neither Dabo Swinney nor Chad Morris could think of one more important than a third-down throwaway late in the first half that preceded a short field goal by Chandler Catanzaro.
"That particular series, we were really frustrated with him, because he should have had a touchdown," Swinney recalled. "He got out of the system on first down, and he almost threw a pick. He tried to throw back across the middle, and he had Brandon Ford open in the flat - just take it and it's a layup, and he didn't take it.
"But then he came back, and the next thing that happened was that he didn't compound mistakes. We're lucky we didn't get sacked (on third down), but he got out of it and escaped and threw the ball away. We took the points and moved on."
"That throwaway was huge - a great play because it allowed us to kick a field goal," agreed Morris. "We had a protection breakdown with a back, where the back didn't pick the linebacker up, and he was able to get out of the pressure and throw it away.
"I thought that showed a lot about his maturity."
"That's absolutely what we needed him to do - to be a smart player and make plays with his legs," said Swinney. "Sometimes the best play is to throw it away, and on that particular case, that was the best play.
"I was proud of him. I know he was mad because he missed that first opportunity. But he continues to grow and mature and improve."
Staying in the system is a matter of play-to-play focus said Morris.
There was a series in there where I thought he lost his edge, and we visited with him on that," Morris said. "It's been a characteristic of Tajh, and he knows it. It's just matter of operating within the system, taking what they give you, and then going on to the next play."
Of the throwaway, Morris said "I don't think he would have done that at all last year."
"One of the things we've talked about - with the weapons that we've got, when we get into the red zone, if we don't screw it up, we should get three points," he said. "It's something we talk about all the time: don't screw it up, take three points and then (next time) go get seven."