There will be no coaching secrets when A&M’s Jimbo Fisher and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney meet for the ninth time Saturday at Kyle Field.
“The good news is you know, the bad news is you know,” Fisher said at his Monday press conference.
Fisher and Swinney have split their matchups, with six of them Top 25 matchups and half of those decided by a touchdown or less.
“You are not going to be given anything,” Fisher said. “You are going to have to earn everything you get. And that’s going to be the key, you can’t wait for them to make mistake and if they do say, ‘Oh, there’s a big play.’ If one of those happen to happen, you better take advantage of it.”
Last year, Clemson grabbed a 31-14 victory over Fisher and Florida State by scoring 14 points off three turnovers while FSU didn’t get any points off two Clemson turnovers. That was Swinney’s third straight victory over Fisher.
Clemson has won at least 10 games for seven straight seasons, going 50-5 in its last 55 games.
“They’ve got a culture there that believes they’re going to be successful,” Fisher said.
That’s what Fisher plans on doing at A&M. He’s not talked about rebuilding, but winning now. Playing Clemson will be a good benchmark for A&M, though once Fisher agreed to A&M’s offer he thought he’d left behind Swinney and the Tigers.
“I had no idea [A&M had a home-and-home series with Clemson],” Fisher said. “It was kind of ironic. I said, ‘Really?’”
Clemson will be the highest-ranked nonconference opponent to play at Kyle Field. The previous highest-ranked foe in nonleague action was in 1987 when sixth-ranked LSU grabbed a 17-3 victory.
The game’s biggest key will be A&M’s offensive line that has three sophomores going against Clemson’s defensive front four that has the potential to be one of the game’s best of all time with potentially four first-round NFL draft picks in April.
“They are dynamic,” Fisher said. “They can beat you with power, they beat you with speed, they beat you with experience, agility and knowledge. They are a well-coached group, it’s going to be a great challenge.”
Last year Florida State netted 21 yards on 24 carries, which included five sacks for 33 yards.
What makes the matchup even more intriguing is that Fisher calls the offensive plays. He’s added veteran coach Darrell Dickey. Their blend of play-calling will go against a Clemson defense which has had four straight Top 10 finishes in total defense under coordinator Brent Venables.
A&M sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond in high school idolized current Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who led Clemson to the national title in 2016.
Mond said he tries to extend plays with his legs and throw with great accuracy a la Watson.
“I met him my sophomore year when I visited other there,” Mond said. “Obviously, a really good guy and another great player I looked up to.”
A&M is hopeful sophomore linebacker Anthony Hines III will be back, but junior defensive end Michael Clemons remains out, Fisher said.
“[Hines] should be practicing this week and should be able to play,” Fisher said.
A&M had 758 yards on 96 snaps in the 59-7 victory over Northwestern State to open the season. Fisher believes the Aggies might have had at least one tight end for every play, a huge change from the four-wide receiver sets under former coach Kevin Sumlin.
Fisher didn’t remember going four wide outs once, he guessed they used a tight end 99.9 percent of the time.
“I’m no math major, maybe 98 percent,” Fisher said.
A&M is expecting a sellout for the game for Kyle Field which seats 102,733.
This will be only the second crowd in excess of 90,000 Clemson has played in front of with the other 92,476 at Georgia in 2014.
Clemson is a 13-point favorite, a half point lower than where it opened.
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