Lacy Spearman Randles knows exactly what’s coming Saturday.
A manager at Mr. Knickerbocker on College Avenue, the downtown apparel store not far from the heart of campus that specializes in Clemson sportswear, said she has seen her share of excitement through the years over Tiger football. And she said she has no doubt the Top 5 matchup between Clemson and Florida State just might top every other game that has come to Death Valley.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s almost hard to describe,” Randles said. “I’ve never seen it like this, maybe for Bowden Bowl I. There’s such a buzz. Everybody is talking about it.”
Bowden Bowl I, of course, was the first father-and-son meeting between then-Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and then-Clemson coach Tommy Bowden. That game in 1999 drew a record crowd of 86,092 fans, who saw the Seminoles escape with a 17-14 win on the way to a national championship.
Never miss a local story.
But this time the No. 3 Tigers (6-0) are seeking their own national championship as they entertain the No. 5 Seminoles (5-0) in a meeting of ACC powerhouses. Randles, whose family owns the 40-year-old Mr. Knickerbocker store, has already has witnessed a prelude, when then-No. 8 Clemson defeated then-No. 5 Georgia 38-35 in the season opener.
“The biggest (sales) week we’ve ever had was for the Georgia game, and we anticipate this one to be bigger,” she said.
ESPN’s traveling road show, College GameDay, which also came to town for the Georgia game, returns to the Clemson campus Saturday to raise the excitement level.
Naturally, coach Dabo Swinney calls Clemson “just the best place in the world.” He doesn’t take the electric atmosphere for granted, especially since many places around the country don’t share the same passion as Clemson does for its team.
“That’s what makes college football special to me, and nobody does it better than Clemson. I mean, nobody. This place is second to none,” Swinney said. “I mean, from the tailgating, from the pageantry of the campus, the Rock, the Hill, the emotion. It’s awesome. It’s just a special thing.”
With a trip to the ACC championship game on the line, as well as a potential spot in the national title game, the teams are certain to put on a show for a sellout crowd and a national television audience on ABC.
Chris DeBord was strolling down College Avenue wearing a T-shirt with – what else? – a Tiger paw on it. An Orlando, Fla., native and second-year graduate student in bioengineering, he’s ready for the weekend revelry to begin. DeBord, whose parents went to Clemson, attended Florida as an undergraduate student and understands big-time football atmospheres.
“It’ll be crazy. It’ll be even be crazier than it was for the Georgia game. I think a lot more people are excited about our national title hopes,” DeBord said. “It should be unreal. The tailgate will start Friday.”
The Clemson players are pumped up because the game is being played in Death Valley, where the Seminoles haven’t won since 2001. They understand what it means to have more than 80,000 cheering fans on their side.
“It means everything, just to see as much as we’ve grown as a team and as a program, we’ve grown that much as a fan base as well,” senior quarterback Tajh Boyd said. “It’s a big deal. You see the tents out there. You see everybody getting ready for the game and getting geared up for it. As much as we’re ready to go out there, the fans are the same way. You just love the whole group of things that comes together when a game like this comes around.”