The Clemson Tigers have been atop the ACC for the last few seasons, but their dominance has risen to a new level in 2018. They haven’t just been beating their conference brethren this season, they have been demolishing them. After a scare against Syracuse in Trevor Lawrence’s first start at quarterback, the Tigers have shown no mercy. In their last four games, they are winning by an average score of 60-9. That in itself is absurd. The level of the Clemson Tigers ACC dominance is one very rarely seen. The offense and defense are currently operating at peak efficiency. Their last four contests have essentially been over by halftime. This illustrates why the Clemson Tigers ACC dominance continues.
Clemson Tigers ACC Dominance
As a conference, the ACC has seen its share of dominant teams. Florida State’s 2013 beat up on opponents in similar fashion on their way to a national title. Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles had a stranglehold on the conference throughout the 90s. The current run of ACC dominance by the Tigers is as good as any the conference has seen. They are on cruise control towards their fourth straight league title, and likely another trip to the College Football Playoff. The ACC is down considerably this year, but that does not take away from the greatness of this Clemson team.
Everyone knew the Clemson defense would be very good with all their returning talent. They have not disappointed. The Tigers are smothering teams from the outset. Their defensive line is pushing opposing teams around. Whether it’s stuffing the run game or harassing the quarterback, few teams in the country are capable of playing at as high a level as Clemson. The Tigers ACC dominance has led to them allowing just 270 yards per game in conference play. They have allowed over 20 points just twice in six league games, and have yet to allow over 26 points in any game this season. The secondary looked susceptible to giving up big plays early in the season, but they have not been tested lately. They have had fewer missed assignments on the back end recently. Since halftime against Syracuse, the defensive line has been so good that opponents rarely have the chance to challenge the Tigers secondary.
New Star Under Center
Lawrence arrived at Clemson with more hype and potential than most could imagine. He has lived up to the billing thus far. In his five starts, he has completed 84 of 128 attempts for 949 yards and nine touchdowns. His total numbers don’t jump out because Clemson has been ahead by so much he hasn’t been forced to throw too often. Florida State and N.C. State both focused on stopping the Tiger’s rushing attack, and the freshman threw for over 300 yards in each game. He has the arm talent to make all the throws, the poise to run the offense, and the weapons to utilize at receiver and running back. The only question left is can Lawrence handle the pressure when the scores are close and the throws are harder to make. He hasn’t had to face any in-game pressure moments yet in his young career.
Running It Up
It’s possible that the most impressive indicator of the Tigers ACC Dominance is their rushing attack. Clemson is averaging 286 yards on the ground in conference games. They have eclipsed 470 yards rushing in two ACC games, including a season-high 492 this past weekend against Louisville. Travis Etienne emerged as the lead tailback and even got his name in the Heisman conversation. The sophomore from Louisiana has 999 yards on the season and is averaging a remarkable 8.6 yards per carry. He leads the conference in yards and touchdowns, of which he has 15. Lyn-J Dixon, Adam Choice, and Tavien Feaster are all among the top 30 rushers in the conference, showing the depth at the position. The offensive line has been a wall for the Tigers. They have worn down opponents and controlled the line of scrimmage in each ACC game. The line often gets overlooked, but this group has been an overwhelming force for their opponents.
Rubbing It In
Clemson is not just beating their opposition, they are trying to embarrass them. The numbers themselves show this to be true, as the previously stated 60-9 average in the last four games indicates. It goes deeper than that though. Head Coach Dabo Swinney is quickly becoming the troll king of college football. He actively looks for ways to needle the opponents. Whether it’s using a laptop on play calling signs to take a shot as N.C State, or its lining up defensive lineman in the backfield late in games to score touchdowns. Swinney will find a way to take an extra dig at the opposing sideline. Clemson’s final touchdown in a 77-16 drubbing of Louisville was a pass to his son, a walk-on for the Tigers. This is after lining up with defensive lineman Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence in the I formation, letting the latter plunge two yards for a score.
Whether you find some of these antics are arrogant, unsportsmanlike, or just plain fun, it’s clear that Swinney doesn’t care and will continue to do it. The Tigers ACC dominance has become so great that they can’t help themselves. The only way to stop it is to beat them, and none of this conference’s programs look close to doing that anytime soon. Boston College is the next team to take their shot at dethroning the Tigers. ESPN’s College Gameday will be in town as the Eagles host Clemson this weekend.