CHARLOTTE—With the majority of the media in attendance having already cast their ballot for Florida State as the team that everyone else will be chasing in the upcoming season—the feeling from Florida State is not the same.
For the Seminoles, there is a feeling that they, along with everyone else in the league, are still chasing the Clemson Tigers.
“They are the kings right now—plain and simple. And until we can knock them off, they deserve to be at the top, because of what they did last year,” Florida State safety Derwin James– who suffered a season ending injury only seven quarters into last season–said. “They have beaten us the last two seasons, they have been the ACC champs—so, yeah, they are the team to beat right now.”
Last season’s run to a second consecutive appearance in the College Football Playoff, a second consecutive ACC Championship, a second consecutive appearance in the National Championship, combined with winning the title has placed the Tigers in the rarified air of elite programs that are annually playing with a target on their back.
It is a target that the Seminoles would like to have back.
“It was hard watching them beat us on our own field, then going to the ACC Championship, then to the playoffs and then to the championship game again,” James said. “I mean, I didn’t really want them to win it all, but I can’t stand Alabama so I ended up pulling for them. And they won it, so that was good for the league I guess. But this year, we want to be back there.”
If the Seminoles are going to unseat the Tigers this season, and return to the league’s premier team, they will have to do so without some key pieces to their offense line.
The Seminoles entered the spring with only two returning starters on the offensive line—both of whom were sidelined due to injury, center Alec Eberle (hip) and right guard Landon Dickerson (ACL)—and only one position where a player started the majority of the season, right tackle, spent the spring second on the depth chart.
Even with the question marks on the offensive line, the head coach of the Seminoles is confident that his group can find the pieces that they need to work their way back to the top of the ACC.
“We have good players,” Jimbo Fisher said. “I think they understand what they have to do. We’re bigger, we’re stronger and I think they got even (quarterback) Deondre’s (Francois) presence around to get us in the right place.
“I’m really anxious after the spring and how much work we’ve done this summer. I’m anxious to see him in the fall, and I think we’ll be fine.”
Clemson’s National Championship Victory Good for the Conference:
While for some of the FSU players may have had trouble pulling for their ACC Atlantic Division rival Clemson in the championship game, there was no doubt that their head coach was pulling for, because it was good for the league.
“I think it’s good. It solidifies it. We’ve had two teams win in the last four years and they also were the runner-up. I knew Clemson would be in it when we played them,” Fisher said. “They have been — Dabo has done a tremendous job coaching, they have great players, they have a great program, great history. Football is very important there. You know it was going to be good. And I was very happy for them. I was very happy for our league and what they did. Re-establishes our brand and what we do, and that game has turned into one heck of a game every year.
“Whoever wins it has a chance to win it all, not only win the ACC, but win a national championship. Plus, then it’s raised the competitiveness of the rest of our league, top to bottom, like I said our league is extremely demanding, and I was very proud of those guys and happy for them.”