Given the events in recent years, especially the fact that both schools have won the ACC Championship the last two seasons, a lot of people look at the annual contest between the Florida State Seminoles and the Clemson Tigers as the new, hot rivalry in college football. And it certainly has delivered.
Two seasons ago, the Tigers welcomed the favored ‘Noles into Death Valley and promptly saw the 11th-ranked team in the country on their way out with a complimentary gift of a 35-30 upset loss. You can probably mark this down as the day that the Tigers and their quirky head coach, Dabo Swinney, announced themselves as a mainstay to the entire nation. The Tigers would go on to win the 2011 ACC Crown and solidify that announcement.
Then, in an early season prime-time contest last season on ABC, the Seminoles and Tigers took the field in Doak Campbell Stadium in what would be one of the most exciting games of the season. After falling behind early, the reserved Jimbo Fisher and his FSU squad fought back to eventually avenge the 2011 loss by a score of 49-37. And, following the Clemson lead from the year before, Florida State would go on to win the ACC Championship and take their rightful place in the Orange Bowl.
There’s obviously a small pattern starting to develop here. And that trend is due largely in-part to their head coaches, who are creating their own little rivalry for us to enjoy, whether they admit it or not.
When Dabo Swinney and Jimbo Fisher took over their respective programs, both schools were not in what some would consider “good standing”.
Jimbo Fisher had the un-enviable task of replacing the legendary Bobby Bowden. While some of the FSU faithful were screaming for change and others were content with Bowden keeping his spot, it was a situation many aspiring coaches would scoff at. Jimbo, on the other hand, took it in stride and seems to be building his own powerhouse in Tallahassee. Last year’s Orange Bowl appearance for the first time in six years solidifies that statement.
Dabo Swinney took over the Clemson program after the resignation of Tommy Bowden in mid-2008. At that point, the program could be considered mediocre, at best. Some were skeptical of the decision to give Swinney the nod. However, after a 6-7 campaign in 2010, the vibrant coach led the Tigers to that 2011 conference title and won the vote of confidence from the Clemson fans.
No matter what the stories are for the coaches, their journeys, or their obstacles, both men have built something that makes college football what it is today–a great rivalry.
Both coaches are considered top-notch recruiters. The last few seasons, coupled with the success each program enjoyed this past signing day, are a clear indication that this rivalry isn’t going anywhere.
They are well on their way to making the annual game between the two a sneak peek at who the ACC Champion will be later in the season. The ability to make a regular season game into something more than just another team name on the schedule speaks volumes to the efforts of these two men.
On October 19th of this upcoming season, these two will lead their squads on to the field in Death Valley for yet another chapter in this growing rivalry.
The only question is, which coach will be celebrating when it’s all over?
Will it be the mild-mannered Jimbo Fisher? Or will we be treated to another display of the powerful vocal chords of Dabo Swinney?