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Clemson In a Different Class

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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At this point, Clemson's real season is the post-season. Kickoff is rapidly approaching.

The ACC has proven to be no competition for Clemson. Now winners of four consecutive conference championships, the unbeaten Tigers have completed their league slate, plus the ACC Championship Game, with a total margin of victory of 420-103. Only once was Clemson even played within 20 points by a conference foe and that was in a game where starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence was injured early. While other teams across the country have continued to try to prove their worth, the Tigers have never wavered. 

A final test-run in Charlotte came with more of the same for the Tigers. Clemson, again, left no doubt, overwhelming Pittsburgh 42-10 in a soggy ACC Championship Game. Fittingly, Travis Etienne opened the night with a 75-yard touchdown burst on the very first play from scrimmage. The Tigers never looked back. Clemson more than doubled up the Panthers in production, rushed for over 300 yards, recorded nine tackles for loss, forced three turnovers and held Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett to 4-of-16 passing for just eight yards.  

Etienne, Game MVP, ran 12 times for 156 yards and two scores. Lawrence threw a pair touchdown passes, both to Tee Higgins. Christian Wilkins paced another strong defensive effort, recording 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery. Though Clemson didn't necessarily play its best for four quarters, the favorites were, in quick-strike sequences, suddenly in championship form; twice in spans of just 5:18 or less, the Tigers scored 14 unaswered points. Dabo Swinney will use the missed opportunities to ensure that his team is at its absolute best for the challenges ahead.     

League play and Championship Saturday in the rear-view for Clemson, the College Football Playoff will again serve as the Tigers' true competition. Remarkably, Clemson's seniors haven't experienced anything else.     

Saturday night included, Swinney's Tigers continue to show that the national stage is their only fitting frame of reference. Clemson, title games included, has now gone 34-2 the last four years in ACC, those two losses coming by a tally of four points. This fall, the Tigers have more wins over conference opponents than their latest foe had total passing yards. Clemson has now won the past two ACC Championship Games by a combined score of 80-13. The Tigers are the first program in league history to claim four straight conference titles outright.  

With a winning playoff record of 3-2, Clemson's senior class will next lead the Tigers into yet another final four. A fourth-consecutive showdown with defending national champion Alabama may very well be on the horizon. The new Clemson standard, on display each and every season, is one that extends well into the new year. As the Tigers chase perfection, they continue to make history along the way.

At this point, Clemson's real season is the post-season. Kickoff is rapidly approaching.

The ACC, for the Tigers, has served as nothing more than a primer for the College Football Playoff. Clemson remains one one of the nation's most-dominant teams. Once more, the Tigers are back where they belong.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports