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Monday Notes: Second Half Domination

Clemson strolled into the locker room at halftime on Saturday only up a touchdown.  And yet, I wasn't worried.  This staff, specifically Chad Morris and Kevin Steele, have proven they can make key halftime adjustments and put their players in position to dominate teams in the second half.   Just look back at some of the games this year.  In the second half Clemson outscored Auburn by 14 points, Virginia Tech by 13 points, Maryland by 22 points, and now North Carolina by 14 points. Those stats are impressive and it puts you at ease a little bit as a Clemson fan that we finally have a capable staff in place that isn't going to get out schemed by opposing coordinators.  Games are many times won late in the contest, and Clemson has done it time and time again this season.

This was supposed to be one of those games that would give Clemson some trouble, one of the few opponents remaining who could really challenge the undefeated Tigers. It was. For about a half.  And then, in an explosive third quarter in which Clemson scored a school-record 35 points -- almost their season average of 38 points per game -- the Tigers further distanced themselves from the rest of the ACC.

If you didn't believe it before, believe it now: Clemson is the team to beat in the ACC. Depending upon what Georgia Tech does against Miami today, next week's game in Atlanta could be one of the most anticipated of the second half of the season. If Clemson continues to play the way it did today, though, the Tigers will be on cruise control to Charlotte.

What Saturday proved was how diverse this offense can really be.  A number of players stepped up on Saturday and that can only be a good thing moving forward.  Hopkins had a monster day, Brandon Ford had a big touchdown catch, and Tajh knows that he doesn't have to lock on to Sammy to be successful moving the ball.  We have weapons everywhere.  Clemson knew yards on the ground were going to be hard to come by.  This wasn't Maryland's run defense.  North Carolina's front four were as good as we will face all year, and Clemson wisely chose to get the ball out quickly to its playmakers and let them do the rest.  Whenever you put up 35 one quarter, you're doing something right. 

"It just continues to show what type of offense we can become when everything is put together," Boyd said.

"We all know teams can't key on any one person in our offense because we have so many different playmakers and we showed that," said DeAndre Hopkins, who led everybody with nine catches for 157 yards. "(Boyd) knows that at any time up to five different guys can make a play anywhere on the field."

Both Dr. B and FF have done a stand up job of dissecting the North Carolina game so I will move on to this week.  Clemson opened today as 4.5 point favorites against Georgia Tech, who they will head on the road to play this weekend in Atlanta.  The number certainly seemed a little low for a Clemson team that has covered every game this season (pretty damn impressive) and are facing a Georgia Tech team that is struggling, having lost two straight.  

But if you really think about it there are a number of reasons the line is where it is.  Most Vegas experts agree that 3 points are given for home field.  This makes sense.  On a neutral field Clemson would likely be 7 point favorites and if this were played in Death Valley, they would therefore be close to 10 point favorites.  Sounds about right.  Going to be a big test for Clemson this weekend.  This is going to be a mad Georgia Tech team the Tigers are facing, under the lights, on the road (although most likely in front on 15-20,000 Clemson fans) in a stadium where Clemson hasn't faired well in its recent history.  Will Georgia Tech's offense wake up against a Clemson defense that has struggled against the option?

The Yellow Jackets have accumulated 49 points in their past 180 minutes of play. In its past two games, Clemson has battered Maryland and North Carolina with 56- and 59-point outputs, respectively. A few weeks ago, Saturday's Tech-Clemson matchup at Bobby Dodd Stadium was shaping up to be an ACC showcase game of undefeated rivals. ESPN College GameDay was considering setting up shop on Tech's campus.

With Tech's two-game tumble, and particularly the Jackets' power outage Saturday in a 24-7 loss to Miami, the game feels less like a showdown and more like the next stop on Clemson's path to its first ACC title since 1991.

I don't view this as a big letdown spot like I did with the Maryland game.  Clemson knows what it has on its hands.  Paul Johnson will be prepared, he always seems to have his guys ready to play for the Clemson game. This could very well turn into a shootout, particularly if Clemson gets gashed for big runs like they did last week on the road at Maryland.  Can Georgia Tech keep up with a Clemson offense that is blowing the doors off of every defense in its path?  I hope not, but we'll find out Saturday night.  It will be critical that the Tigers set the tempo early and get off to a strong start, no more spotting teams 14 points like what unfolded in College Park.  

Defensive coordinator Al Groh and his players deserve credit for their best game in ACC play this season. The 262 yards they surrendered was a season low for the Jackets. Tech gave Miami running back Lamar Miller little room to run and repeatedly had players free to bring him down near the line of scrimmage. The Jackets will need to be even sharper next Saturday for Clemson.  

I'll finish with the unveiling of tonight's BCS and what has transpired around the College Football world this weekend. From a player's perspective we obviously want to take it one game at a time.  But from a fan's perspective, it's hard not to get excited after Wisconsin lost on a hail mary and Oklahoma got beat by a Texas Tech team that was a huge underdog (did anyone else stay up for that like I did?).  With tonight's debut of the second edition of the BCS standings, Clemson slides into 5th place.  If Stanford and Oklahoma State slip up down the stretch things will start to get very interesting.  Too much to think about though at this point though, take care of business against Georgia Tech this weekend and move on to the next one.  Just win baby win.