Clemson University

Tigers try to occupy time before opener

Head coach Tommy Bowden's Clemson squad will open its season against Florida State, coached by his father, Bobby Bowden.
Head coach Tommy Bowden's Clemson squad will open its season against Florida State, coached by his father, Bobby Bowden.

CLEMSON -- It is a rare problem for which coach Tommy Bowden has found little counsel.

Clemson has more free time than Bowden knows what to do with.

With their season debut against No.19 Florida State withheld until Monday night as the encore to college football's grand reopening, the Tigers have to fill in the gaps to the normal game-week routine.

In order to ensure players would stay out of trouble, Bowden considered putting the team up in a hotel Saturday night as well as Sunday. Instead, he has chosen to hold a Saturday night practice for perhaps no other reason than to occupy their time.

"There aren't a lot of Monday night games, so there isn't a lot of information and resources available other than Florida State/Miami," Bowden said. "And he's not telling, not giving us any bait."

He, of course, is father and FSU coach Bobby Bowden, whose Seminoles -- along with Miami -- occupied the attractive Labor Day night national television slot the previous three years before the Hurricanes grew tired of playing such a high-stakes affair at season's beginning.

So the ACC inserted Clemson and the inherent storyline of the Bowden Bowl, which will add its ninth chapter at 8 p.m. Monday on ESPN.

The focus of this installment has drifted from the overall family dynamic to the survival measures of its individual cast members.

The Bowden Bowl storyline has clearly grown exhausted for both coaches, in large measure because of the toll of persistent public scrutiny and its impact on one another's lives -- the least of which seems to come from Tommy's reappearance on national hot seat lists.

Clemson's 27-20 upset win at FSU last September spawned a freefall that led Seminoles offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden -- Tommy's youngest brother -- to take the sword and resign before his dad was forced to make a call.

Consequently, Bobby Bowden was driven toward the first major staff overhaul of his 32-year tenure. Five assistants were eventually replaced, headlined by the high-profile, high-dollar acquisitions of former LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and hard-nosed West Virginia line coach Rick Trickett.

During his weekly media gathering Tuesday, Tommy said he was even unsure if his mother, Ann, would attend the game.

"The family aspect of it the last few years has made it more difficult, I don't think there's any doubt about that," Bowden said.

"Both of us are coming off frustrating years. Usually it's just us, not them. So that adds a little different flavor to the game."

A bitter taste, to be sure, but one spiced up by the fact Clemson has beaten FSU twice in a row and three out of the last four meetings -- the only ACC team that can offer such a boast.

Oddsmakers nonetheless have made the Tigers underdogs. Yet armed with the tools fans believe are capable of securing an ACC title, Bowden expects the Memorial Stadium environment to rival that of last year's electric atmosphere for the Georgia Tech rout.

It should be a Monday night party. Whether it gets the good times started remains to be answered.

Categorizing the quality of the previous Monday night showcases depends on the eye of the beholder.

All three of the FSU/Miami matchups appeared ugly, sloppy affairs, with the winner never scoring more than 16 points. In three meetings, the teams combined for 12 fumbles and eight interceptions -- leading Bowden to label them as great defensive contests.

Bowden predicted Clemson would pose a greater challenge offensively than Miami because of its multiple-formation system would be tougher to predict.

The Tigers will just have to wait two days longer than most of the country's other teams to test the theory.

"We've talked to the team about one of the signs of maturity is being able to adjust to change," Bowden said.

"You're going to have a pretty good idea of potentially how good a team you're going to have."


• When: 8 p.m. Monday

• Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson

• TV: ESPN (cable channel 25 in Rock Hill)

• Tickets: Sold out