Another week, another win for the Clemson Tigers, who absolutely routed the North Carolina State Wolfpack by a final score of 55-10. It was yet another wholly complete performance from a Dabo Swinney squad that is rolling at the moment.
But this weekend, it was as much about how everyone else in the country played... as it was about the Tigers' performance in Raleigh. And with plenty of shake-ups at the top of the country, my guess is that all the hand-wringing about Clemson not being in the College Football Playoff’s first rankings will fade into the background by the time the new rankings are released tonight.
But first, let’s find out how Clemson came away with the win…
The Clemson train comes to Raleigh, and no one can stop it
If you didn’t think Clemson would come into their game against NC State with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder after being kept out of the top four in the first CFP rankings released last week, then they quickly proved you wrong soon after this one kicked off.
The first quarter was about as clinical a game as I think I’ve ever seen this Clemson team play: they scored on their first four possessions, racked up 200 yards offensively, forced two turnovers defensively, allowed the Wolfpack -4 yards, and rode a 42-0 lead into halftime with the game already far past any doubt.
They would finish the day with 549 yards, 27 first downs, no turnovers, and the closest thing to a blemish being the 10 penalties they racked up on the day. Trevor Lawrence continued his recent hot streak as he took advantage of NC State’s weak secondary to go 20-27 for 276 yards and three touchdowns. Travis Etienne, meanwhile, continued his absolutely stellar season by going off for 112 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries.
And, as always, there was the defense, which allowed just 290 yards total on the day (many of which came when the game was long out of reach for NC State), 13 first downs, while forcing four turnovers. They also basically bought real estate in the backfield, finishing with eight tackles for a loss - but even when NC State got the ball into the air, the secondary was all over it. The Wolfpack got just 166 yards on 14-29 passing from Devin Leary, and Clemson was able to get five passes defended on the day, the most since their game against Charlotte.
Any way you slice it, the message was clear: Clemson isn’t here to be left out of anyone’s list of the best teams in the country.
Which brings us to…
What everyone else did across the country
While Clemson was absolutely (and predictably) rocking NC State in Raleigh, the rest of the country was a bit more interesting…
First, the team just ahead of the Tigers in the polls - Penn State - took an ill-fated trip to Minneapolis and lost to the now 9-0 Minnesota Golden Gophers (yes, you read that right - it’s one of my favorite stories of the season). Then, in the match-up of the weekend, LSU finally exorcised their own “Bama Demons” to take down the Tide in Tuscaloosa.
But it wasn’t all about shake-ups in the CFP - Wake Forest got upset this weekend in Blacksburg (someone… ehem… predicted that last Friday), meaning that Clemson has now clinched the ACC Atlantic divisional title. And across the state in Columbia, Clemson’s Palmetto Bowl buddy - the South Carolina Gamecocks - lost to the Appalachian State Mountaineers in one of the biggest upsets of the season thus far.
Suffice it to say, the outlook of the remainder of Clemson’s season completely changed this weekend… and all they had to do was beat a lackluster NC State team.
What it all means moving forward…
As you can imagine, with the 3rd and 4th ranked teams tumbling at the top, Clemson will almost certainly slide right in when this week’s rankings are released. See? I told you there was nothing to worry about.
With Alabama and Penn State both falling out, my guess is Clemson will slide right into that 3rd slot. (For what it’s worth, the South Carolina loss means that Georgia’s ranking will be affected as well, so look for the Pac-12 to get some shine with either Oregon or Utah bringing up the fourth spot.)
And the ACC Atlantic title Clemson has now clinched will be their fifth straight - and if there’s any doubt lingering as to whether the Tigers belong amongst the country’s top brass in 2019, they’ve now secured one more chance to get some style points in the ACC Championship game.
What a difference a week makes, folks. Be on the lookout for our preview for the Tigers’ match-up with the Demon Deacons, and until then - GO TIGERS!
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