How Good is Clemson?

After a thorough 56-10 dismantling of Boston College Friday night in Chestnut Hill, one has to wonder just how good Clemson really is.

Certainly, the Eagles’ lofty defensive status was built on weak opponents, but the Tiger offense was as good as it possibly could have been in picking the unit apart.

To say they pass the eye test does a disservice to tests and eyes in general. Everyone knows they’re good, but the sheer number of weapons in Dabo Swinney’s arsenal is truly incredible.

One could argue that every skill position player on offense can score at any moment, and naturally it starts with all-everything quarterback DeShaun Watson.

Despite the undeniable talent and eye-popping numbers of Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, I still give a slight nod to Deshaun Watson as the best quarterback in the country. Just watch his touchdown throws from the BC game and tell me he isn’t the top pick in the NFL Draft next season.

Something watching in person reminds you that doesn’t always pop out on television is Watson’s ability to throw receivers open. Look at those last two throws on the highlight reel in particular. Watson puts the ball in perfect spots where only his receiver can get it.

Those receivers don’t even necessarily need the help with guys like Mike Williams, Deon Cain, Artavis Scott, and Ray-Ray McCloud running routes.

There’s also running back Wayne Gallman who’s an underutilized weapon in the passing game, and doesn’t get enough credit as a runner. He makes nice cuts and has speed to burn. Gallman isn’t known as a power back per se, but he has deceptive strength that makes him a handful to take down.

Players are great, but what makes the offense really tick are the schemes. The plays themselves are so well designed. Things set up more often than not with several options and great downfield blocking. A surprising number of big plays come on simple screen passes that are perfectly executed.

Photo Credit: Justin Cates

Then there’s the defense which still has yet to lose a step no matter who graduates. The Tigers are currently 9th in total defense, 8th in passes intercepted, and 5th in tackles for loss. Brent Venables also has superior schemes and his guys have been excellent since he was brought on in 2012.

The biggest difference against Boston College came in the trenches where Clemson routinely got pressure and set the tone up front early. Scott Pagano and Dexter Lawrence were on full display, particularly at the goal line where BC came away with 10 points on three trips inside the five yard line.

One potential weakness comes in the form of Ray-Ray McCloud on punt returns. When he properly fields the ball and gets moving he’s a dangerous weapon, but he’s muffed a number of kicks this season and has to clean that up to avoid getting pulled from the spot.

Six games into the season Clemson is hitting its stride and looking every bit as good — if not a bit better — than last season’s group. While there were some concerns about some early-season close calls, people forget that the Tigers started slow last season as well.

With a win over Louisville under the Tigers’ belt and a boatload of momentum, there’s no question that Clemson is once again the class of the ACC and a likely playoff contender come season’s end.

Follow me on Twitter@BestCates and follow @InsideTheACC for more Atlantic Coast Conference coverage.


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