CLEMSON, S.C. — Though Clemson and NC State fans might be overly excited for Saturday’s first ever top 10 matchup between the longtime ACC rivals, that is not the case for the teams necessarily.
Do not get it wrong. Their excited, but in a different way.
Even with the effects of Hurricane Ian expected to make an appearance in the Upstate of South Carolina on Friday and Saturday, close to 150,000 people are expected to be in Clemson this weekend with just 81,500 actually getting into the stadium.
With ESPN’s College GameDay on campus and it being ABC’s Primetime game, there is a lot of hype for No. 10 NC State at No. 5 Clemson. ABC is even going to highlight Clemson’s entrance into Death Valley, from the moment the Tigers leave the locker room on the west side of the stadium to load the buses, through the ride around the stadium to the east side of Memorial Stadium, to rubbing Howard’s Rock and running down the hill.
“To me, every time we walk in that stadium it is special. Every time,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said following Wednesday’s practice. “I never take it for granted and I know y’all get tired of me saying it, but every game is the biggest game of the year.
“This is not the biggest game of the year because it is another ranked opponent, it is a night game, GameDay. All of that stuff is great, but if none of that was there, it would still be the biggest game of the year.”
But it is a big game for all the reasons Swinney outlined and for the fact it is a key game in the ACC’s Atlantic Division race. With the Tigers (4-0, 2-0 ACC) already owning a win over Wake Forest, and with the Florida State game scheduled for Oct. 15, a win on Saturday can go a long way in helping them gain control of the division.
With Wake Forest and Florida State on the docket in the coming weeks as well, the Wolfpack (4-0, 0-0 ACC) will also have an opportunity for an inside track to the ACC Championship Game.
“If we are going to achieve our goals, we want to stay in control of our destiny. That is the best way to do it,” Swinney said. “All of that stuff is great. We have an unbelievable environment. More juice, I guess, to go with it. You got all kinds of external stuff, but as I have said many times, that is fuel for the fire.
“External factors, night game, GameDay, rankings, all of that, it cannot be the fire. The fire has to come within, you know? All of that other stuff can be a little bit of fuel to throw on it. If that is the stuff that really motivates you, then you are never going to be consistent. That is what we have tried to do year in and year out and I think we have done a great job of that.”
By the way, Clemson also has a 36-game home winning streak on the line too. Which, by the way, is the nation’s longest active home winning streak.
–photo courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications