Jimbo Fisher looked at the Texas A&M schedule when he first took the job earlier this year and could only shake his head and smile.
The former Florida State coach, who won his first game with the Aggies last week, will welcome former ACC rival Clemson to Kyle Field on Saturday night. Fisher went 4-4 in those games as head coach of the Seminoles.
“The good news is you know hey like they like to do things and how they compete,” he said. The bad news is you know. We’ve been in some great game the last few years. For so many years, whoever won that game won the conference.”
The Aggies are coming off a 59-7 beatdown of Northwestern State last Thursday night, while Clemson, who has appeared in the College Football Playoffs three years in a row, also played lights out in its 48-7 romp against Furman on Saturday.
“We’re going to find out if we can compete and stay focused in the game,” Fisher said. “It’s an opportunity for the kids to find out what it’s like. Clemson has been as good as anybody the last few years. You want to play these games, but more importantly, you’ve got to prepare to play these games.”
Clemson has weapons all over the field, but it all starts with the Tigers’ defensive line, a group that was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and labeled the best college group of all time.
Three of the four of Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins were All-Americans last season and every single one was named to the preseason All-ACC first-team.
A&M quarterbacks were sacked twice and hurried three times in the win against the Demons. Starter Kellen Mond was still able to complete 17 of his 25 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
“Even you don’t get sacks you get hits in,” Fisher said. “We had a couple hits on Thursday that we didn’t need to take. One is too many. (Clemson’s) guys up front are dynamic and they can beat you with power or speed. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
Clemson quarterbacks Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence both saw the field against Furman and both put up impressive numbers, highlighted by the three touchdowns Lawrence threw in the second half.
Fisher said the two are more similar than they appear at first glance.
Mond likes to model his game after another former Clemson quarterback in Deshaun Watson, but Fisher is quick to say while it’s all right to model your game after someone, you’ve also got to be yourself.
“He stood in there with guys bearing down and threw strikes (on Thursday),” Fisher said of Mond. “He picked up blitzes and when he got outside the pocket, was able to create with his feet. From that standpoint, I was very pleased with the way he played.”
Fisher and Tigers’ head coach Dabo Swinney have been on opposing sidelines since the early 2000s, and Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich was an associate AD when Fisher was there, so he knows how the program stays successful.
He said there’s been an all-encompassing support at Clemson from football staff to administration and facilities and that make the program what it is today.
Fisher knows the key for the Aggies is staying composed and not waiting for Clemson to make a mistake, because the Tigers might not.
“You’re not going to be given anything,” Fisher said.