Clemson Stays on Track for BCS Bowl
By Brandon Rink
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Clemson is currently projected to receive an at-large bid to the Sugar Bowl.
One by one, the dominoes fall in college football, but No. 8 Clemson keeps on rolling, with BCS bowl goals within reach.
The Tigers (9-1, 6-1 ACC) are projected to the Sugar Bowl as an at-large, which, after the ACC earned two BCS bids for the first time last season, would not only be another big step for Clemson, but also for the conference.
“We are a very focused program and we have had great leadership all season,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said after his team's 45-10 triumph over Maryland. “This group of Tigers is the most consistent at home, with our 12th consecutive home win. It starts with how we practice.”
That 12th-straight home victory set a school record, which stretches back to the start of the 2011 season. Defending Death Valley is a motivating factor for players like Clemson defensive end Corey Crawford.
“This is big,” Crawford said. “We set a new standard here at Clemson. When we play at home, we win, no matter what.”
The schedule coming up, all at home, toughens with NC State (6-4, 3-3), who took the matchup last season in Raleigh, 37-13, and then the last team to beat the Tigers in Memorial Stadium, No. 11 South Carolina (8-2).
“I’ve told my players that now is the time when top 10 teams separate themselves from the pack,” Swinney said. “The end of November is when it matters. We need to play our best football down the stretch.”
Defense Sets Tempo for Tigers Against Terps
Maryland limped into Clemson, to say the least, missing its leading passer, rusher, receiver and punt/kick returner.
Terps coach Randy Edsall said postgame the one thing they stressed to linebacker-turned-quarterback Shawn Petty was taking care of the ball, and Saturday, well, he didn’t.
Scrambling under pressure, Petty reached back to throw and the ball didn’t come back with him – making way for Clemson defensive end Corey Crawford’s easy 16-yard scoop-and-score.
Two drives later, the Tigers’ other starting defensive end, Malliciah Goodman, forced another fumble, which the offense cashed in for a 21-0 first quarter lead.
Maryland’s first six possessions averaged 3.2 plays for 6.3 yards, with four punts and two fumbles.
Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables said the early pressure and defensive score was a product of a defense coming together.
“It was a tempo-setter obviously,” Venables said. “Let’s face it, they have some limitations they’re going through.
“All that aside, our positioning, our physicality, our consistency that we play with – a very aggressive focus and the intensity we brought out there – we talked all week on focusing on us more than anything else and control what we can. I think that was a sign of maturation and good leadership and guys being hungry - not being satisfied.”
Clemson held Maryland to 180 yards of total offense – the lowest since 2009 in the ACC (Wake Forest held Clemson to 178), and the Terps were 1-of-13 on third down conversions.
In the last four games, the Tigers have moved up 39 spots in total defense (96th to 57th) and 38 in scoring defense (71st to 33rd) nationally.
Score Every Drive
If you’re looking for a theme for the Clemson offense of late – they’re record-breaking (every week), but not satisfied.
If the Tigers don’t score every drive, junior quarterback Tajh Boyd says it’s not good enough.
“There is always more room for improvement,” Boyd said. “I know we keep saying that every week, but it just drives you to go out there and score every drive possible.
“I don’t believe that there are too many people that can stop us.”
Clemson scored 35 points in the first half for a third-straight game, and at least 37 points for a ninth-straight game, which only Oregon can claim nationally.
Boyd connected with receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a score in a seventh-straight game. It was Hopkins’ 14th receiving touchdown, a category in which he ranks only behind West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey nationally (16).
The Tigers’ junior signal-caller has thrown for 13 touchdowns and 1,033 yards in the last three games.
Chad Morris’ high-powered attack is seventh nationally in total offense (513.8 YPG) and sixth in scoring offense (42.9 PPG) through 10 games.
After hauling in four catches for 60 yards, Sammy Watkins did leave mid-second quarter Saturday after reinjuring a bruised ankle, which Swinney called a precautionary measure.