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Clemson is Still Clemson

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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What Clemson is doing is still remarkable. It looks like the Tigers are now settling in.

Every national champion enters the season in the spotlight. Expectations, when defending, are unrelenting. The start of the year for Clemson was no different.

Though the Tigers kept winning, currently at a record 25 in a row, some felt they weren't winning by enough. Some were underwhelmed by a 24-10 win over Texas A&M, even though the Tigers increased their margin of victory over the Aggies from a season ago and that was with a meaningless late touchdown from the visitors. Then, a one-point survival at North Carolina opened the door for more Clemson-criticism. The Tigers triumphed by stopping a late two-point conversion attempt to perserve the win. Even in a moment of potential weakness, there was yet another win.

For a team that won its last ten contests by at least 20 points last year, Notre Dame and Alabama in the College Football Playoff included, Clemson's performance wasn't as much due for an inevitiable regression as much as our perspective. What the Tigers did this past season stands as unparalleled history. While at times ebbing and flowing to a relative extent, this fall has been a continuation. What Clemson is doing is still remarkable. It looks like the Tigers are now settling in.

Since the close call in Chapel Hill, Clemson has outscored its opponents 263-to-55, winning by an average score of 52.6 to 11. In Saturday's win at North Carolina State, the Tigers led 42-0 at halftime. Clemson, over its last three games, has 91 first downs, zero turnovers and has allowed just one touchdown in the first half. For those wanting to see more out of the defending national champions, their eyes should be wide open.

After one of the greatest seasons ever in college football, the pressure on quarterback Trevor Lawrence, along with the anticipation for what was next, was and is overwhelming. His interception totals increased some in September, as was the case with previous returning ACC superstars like Jameis Winston and Deshaun Watson. Perceptual chaos ensued. Over Lawrence's last three games, however, he has completed 48-of-62 passes, 77.4%, with eleven total touchdowns and zero interceptions. Lawrence leads the league in quarterback rating, with a margin higher than he had this past year. 

For all of the stats and superlatives, Lawrence still has not lost.

Along with its star signal caller, Clemson appears to be peaking at the right time. The Tigers' recent play is reminiscent of the standard set in 2018, all as the stretch run approaches. Not long after many were fretting, it's clear that Clemson's framework is still very much in place. An obvious talking point, the Tigers' schedule, playing two SEC opponents out of conference and with traditional ACC powers struggling, is beyond their control. Here in peak season, Clemson iplaying like one of the best teams in the country.    

No team is perfect, but the Tigers, as of late, have looked close to it. The talking points surrounding Clemson may have changed some, the status quo has not.

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