Clemson NC State Football

Clemson's Clelin Ferrell (99) lines up against North Carolina State during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. Clemson won 38-31. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Gerry Broome

CLEMSON — The Clemson Tigers still have at least four games, with hopes of playing in six more games before closing out the season, and the questions surrounding draft-eligible players have already started.

One of the players facing a decision about his future after the season is defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who is a potential first-round draft pick if he decides to forgo his senior season. But he is not worried about the NFL yet.

Instead, Ferrell is focused on winning a third-straight ACC Championship, a third-straight appearance in the College Football Playoff and a third-straight national championship game — and graduating next December.

“That’s (the NFL discussion) not fair to my teammates or fair to myself,” Ferrell said. “I’m just taking it one game at a time. My plan, as far as that, I plan to come back and graduate next December. So that’s my plan. Obviously you do have to think about things when you are eligible for stuff like that, but I haven’t thought about that at all.

“It’s funny that you brought that up. When you say that, it’s like: ‘Man, I haven’t even been thinking about that.’ I thought about it being the last home game of the season next week, but it just shows how fast this year’s gone by.”

While the idea of entering the NFL Draft following this season has not entered Ferrell’s mind, one thing has entered his mind — the Florida State Seminoles.

The Seminoles have struggled offensively this season — ranking 119th in scoring offense (18.6 points per game), 90th in rushing offense (157 yards per game), 92nd in passing offense (192.8 yards per game) and 113th in total offense (336.5 yards per game) — but Ferrell believes Florida State is still a very talented team.

“We know Florida State has a bunch of dudes who can play here and a bunch of dudes who are going to play in the NFL one day,” Ferrell said. “Obviously Coach Swinney talked about it (their struggles). We feel like coming into the season, the committee who decides the schedule, they kind of set it up so that if Florida State had the season a lot of people wanted them to have, this would have been the game to decide who goes on to the ACC Championship.”

Even with Florida State struggling to a 3-5 overall record and a 3-4 record in ACC play, the game will have implications on the ACC Championship, as the Tigers can clinch their third straight Atlantic Division title with a victory on Saturday.

With their season goals now relegated to playing the role of spoilers, and needing a victory to keep their 35-year streak of going to a bowl game intact, the Seminoles are sure to give the Tigers their best shot (3:30 p.m., ESPN).

“Definitely man (we’re going to get Florida State’s best game). That’s why I said, regardless of their record doesn’t mean nothing to us,” Ferrell said. “We know that when they see us and when we see them, we know we’ve got to play our best game. Regardless of how we’re doing that particular time of the season, we’re going to get each other’s best.

“Them coming to Death Valley just adds to it. They’re going to want to come here and have a big-time performance against us, so it doesn’t really matter how well they’re playing.”

Tigers can clinch early

The Tigers may actually clinch a berth in the ACC Championship before taking the field Saturday. If the Boston College Eagles were to defeat the N.C. State Wolfpack Saturday (noon, ABC-ESPN2), Clemson would capture the division title regardless of the outcome of the game against Florida State.

But head coach Dabo Swinney will not be worrying about the outcome of the game in Chestnut Hill, Mass. He is only concerned with winning his game.

“I could care less,” Swinney said. “We are in no shape, form or fashion sitting around here worrying about what somebody else does. We’re just trying to take care of our business. If somebody is worried about that, then you don’t have the right mindset.

“If you don’t have the right mindset going into something, then it’s not good. We’ve got to play a great game.”

Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat.

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