After Clemson’s 58-0 destruction of Miami, coupled with aUtah loss to USC on Saturday night, Tiger fans have no need to scoreboard watch anymore. Clemson is now No. 3 in the AP Poll (what the coaches are thinking putting the Tigers at No. 6 is a total mystery) and their road to the College Football Playoff is completely in their control.
Miami was incredibly awful this past weekend, leading to the dismissal of their coach Al Golden on Sunday. But part of the Hurricanes' problem was that Clemson was good. Very, very good. In fact, a case could be made that they are the best team in America right now.
Here are five thoughts on the 7-0 Clemson Tigers.
1. They Have an Extremely Versatile Offense
If an opponent attempts to take away the run likeBoston College did, Deshaun Watson throws for 420 yards. If the Tigers are facing an inept run defense, they will run for 416 yards like they did against Miami. Clemson has the ability to seize upon whatever opportunity the other team allows. Not only can they adjust from week to week, they show amazing offensive diversity in each game. Straight handoffs, option runs, wide receiver screens, and shots over the top. Clemson has the personnel to do it all and offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott have outlined exceptional game plans.
2. The Domination of the Offensive Line
The versatility of the offense can only be achieved if the offensive line plays well. And this group has. Miami’s defensive front is not strong, but Clemson’s blockers did a great job in both pass protection and run blocking. Watson was hardly touched and several running backs, led by Wayne Gallman, had big chunk runs. The inexperience of the offensive line has been well documented, but the front five has not been a liability to this point and this unit should continue to improve.
3. The Domination of the Defensive Line
As well as the offensive line played, the defensive front may have been even better. The play that epitomized the entire afternoon was the one where Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd were the only rushers, but Lawson broke free and sacked Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, knocking Kaaya out of the game. Miami couldn’t run and the Hurricanes couldn’t pass block either. It was a total team effort, but it all started up front.
When Clemson hits you, you go down. And you go down right where you are. No breaking tackles, no leaning forward or dragging a defender for another five yards. This is an underrated component to defensive success. Part of Clemson’s tackling prowess comes from the fact that the defenders are so big, strong and athletic. But more importantly, their technique is spot on. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables has received well-deserved praise this year for his work with his unit and getting the Tigers to execute the fundamentals while remaining aggressive and disruptive may be his greatest accomplishment.
5. Putting Teams Away Early
With the exception of the Boston College game, Clemson has jumped on the opposition early and is now showing the killer instinct necessary to end games by halftime. This week, it was over by the end of the first quarter. Even against BC, at 27-10 midway through the third quarter, things were sewn up. Holding on against Notre Dame has given these Tigers the belief that they are better than the team on the other sideline each week. Going into the stretch run, with a Playoff spot and ACC title within their sights, this is a nice trait to have.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.