CLEMSON — Some games just mean more for certain players. Not because of what the game means for the team’s long-term goals but because of the opponent.
That is the case for Tallahassee, Florida, native and Clemson wide receiver Deon Cain this week as the Tigers take on the Florida State Seminoles (3:30 p.m., ESPN).
"Always a big thing to come home and play Florida State,” Cain said. “It's probably one of the biggest rivalries around here in Clemson. And then for me as a player, just being from Tallahassee, this game is going to have a lot coming into it.
"I have a lot of friends that committed to Florida State throughout the recruiting process that I met. I do have a lot of friends just going through Florida State, so it will be fun going against them."
The junior wide receiver has a perfect 2-0 record against his hometown school and has had some of biggest games against the Seminoles.
In 2015, his freshman season, Cain had three receptions for 56 yards and a 38-yard touchdown pass that gave the Tigers a 13-10 lead in the third quarter after trailing 10-6 at halftime. The Tigers went on to win the game against the 15th-ranked Seminoles by a final score of 23-13.
Last season, in Tallahassee, Cain had two receptions for 69 yards — an average of 34.5 yards per reception — in the Tigers’ 37-34 thrilling victory.
That kind of history makes the Clemson-Florida State game so special for the players and the fans.
"This is one of the biggest rivalries that we have in Clemson history is the Clemson-Florida State game, and this is actually the game to clinch the ACC (Atlantic Division) title, so it's going to mean a lot coming into this game just from both sides,” Cain said. “And you always want to be in games like that when you're growing up. Watching that through recruitment and now I get to experience that again. So it's going to be a good thing and it should be fun."
With the Seminoles entering this year’s game with a losing record overall (3-5), as well as in the ACC (3-4), some of the luster has been washed off of this season’s annual divisional game.
The Tigers are heavy favorites (-17) for the first time in the series’ history and are in search of their third-consecutive trip to the ACC Championship (Dec. 2), and the Seminoles are needing to win three out of their last four games to reach a bowl for the 36th straight season.
But even as lopsided as the line on the game is and as bad as Florida State’s record is, Cain believes the Tigers are going to get the Seminoles’ best shot.
"At the end of the day, Florida State is still Florida State,” Cain said. “Even just looking at their record they're still a great team. …
“At the end of the day, I think they still have a physical, tough defense and a great offense with their young quarterback -- he's looking pretty good.
“I still like their team. I still don't doubt Florida State, because we're still going to get the best from them. We've just got to show up and execute."
For the Tigers, regardless of the record, this is the biggest game of the season.
This is the chance to mark their second goal off their annual list — win the division. The fact that the Tigers can accomplish that goal at home, in front of 81,000 Tiger fans, is sure to add to the excitement.
"It's probably going to be a little more intense because this is the biggest game of the season,” Cain said. “Really this game, we've got to come in here with a humble mindset and be ready to attack because we're going to get the best from Florida State and I know they're going to come in here playing hard and we've got to match that and come out with a W."