This might have been the perfect week to be off. Four Top 10 teams were the victims of an upset. Georgia, West Virginia, Washington, and Penn State all went down. Miami, Colorado, and Auburn were other ranked teams who were beaten, and all by unranked teams. It was a wild Saturday indeed, and one in which the Clemson Football team was able to sit back, relax, and just watch as the madness unfolded.
Next weekend the Tigers will welcome the undefeated NC State Wolfpack into the friendly confines of Death Valley. It will be the final regular season game pitting two unbeaten P5 teams against one another, and after some of the talk I have seen from a couple of Pack players, Dave Doeren best have his team ready to play, instead of worrying about laptops and such nonsense.
Since there was no game to go over this week, this might be more of an abbreviated edition. I figured I would take a look at a few specific areas and delve into how the Tigers have fared overall in those areas through the first six games of the season.
After an up down start to the season, in which the team seemed to struggle finding its identity on offense, it seems as if this team is starting to settle in offensively. Rotating the QBs through the first four games certainly played a role in that, as it seemed the team had a hard time getting into any kind of sustained rhythm during the majority of that stretch.
At the halfway point, I think we can all agree that the strength of this offense is without question, the running game. The Tigers have three different RBs that rank in the Top 15 nationally in yards per carry. No other team has even two backs in the Top 15. Lyn J Dixon, in his limited role is 2nd in the nation, averaging 11.04 YPC. Travis Etienne is 6th with 9.17, and Adam Choice is 13th with 7.86 YPC. Those are eye popping numbers. How is Etienne not getting a little more Heisman love? I think that is a question we would all love the answer to.
From this point on, one would have to assume the staff starts to rely more heavily on this rushing attack, and allow it to open up the passing game for Trevor Lawrence. Despite his unlimited potential, he is still a true freshman who has had moments where his inexperience was on display. Letting those backs shoulder the load while Lawrence is still acclimating himself to all the nuances of the college game would seem like the way to go with the way the schedule shapes up down the stretch. What a great luxury to have..... Paws Up
After seeing three option teams in its first four games, this defense has really started to impose its will on teams. Since the start of the 3rd quarter against Syracuse, they have been downright dominant. Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins have just had their way on the interior, and the emergence of true freshman Xavier Thomas just gives Brent Venables one more weapon at his disposal.
The secondary has had some growing pains, but seem to be improving from week to week. I imagine we will find out if they actually have this weekend, as Ryan Finley will test them early and often. Having said that, nothing masks deficiencies on the back end of a defense better than a stout front four that can get after the QB, and the Tigers certainly have that part covered..... Paws Up
This group has had its share of up and down moments as well. They have been stellar when it comes to run blocking but there are things that still need to be shored up when it comes to the pass blocking, particularly at RG. From my perspective, this was the area of most concern heading into the bye week..... Paws Even
What a weapon BT Potter is. Tiger fans have been clamoring for a guy who could consistently put the ball in the end zone on kickoffs and now they have one. He doesn’t just put them in the end zone, he kicks a majority out of the back of the end zone, never giving the return guy any chance to think about a return. That is a luxury the Clemson faithful had not been accustomed to prior to this season, and what a luxury it is.
The return game has not been spectacular by any means but I think overall it has been solid. Amari Rogers has done a good job returning punts. Yes, he had one terrible game vs Syracuse but overall he has been good back there. On kickoff returns, it seemed the Tigers had found their man in Cornell Powell, but an off field issue has kept him out of the last 2 games and there is still no word on when he might return. We will have to see how that plays out.
Greg Huegel is another that has been up and down through the first half of the season, having hit only 5 of his 8 FG attempts (in fairness 2 of the misses were on a windy day against Syracuse). Hopefully he can get that percentage (63%) up over the final half of the season, but at least he hasn’t missed any PAT’s..... Paws Even
Elsewhere across the nation.....
Captain Khaki Pants and his Fightin’ Harbaughs finally got one. After having very little success of late in the “big games,” the Wolverines rushed for over 300 yards and knocked off #15 Wisconsin Saturday night. However, this is the same Wisconsin team that lost at home to BYU, so I am not sure this one changes the narrative very much. For now though..... Paws Up
The Dawgs playoff hopes took a pretty big hit Saturday in Baton Rouge. Georgia had been begging for someone to knock them off of late, and finally ran into someone capable of pulling it off. LSU took the running game away, holding them to just 113 yards and Jacob Fromm looked like an average QB. All is not lost, but it will likely take running the table and winning the SEC for a return trip to the CFP..... Paws Down
The couch burners got smoked in Ames on Saturday. Part of me wishes the Mountaineers could have made a run to the playoff and a first round matchup against Clemson. The Tigers certainly owe them one. However, the other part of me knows that would entail an entire month of the talking heads reliving the you know what, and that would be no fun at all..... Paws Down
The Huskies still had slim playoff hopes coming into Saturdays game against Oregon. By the time Saturday was over, the Ducks made sure those playoff hopes were a thing of the past, as was any hope of Game Day making a stop in Clemson next weekend..... Paws Down
Virginia? Really? Are the Wahoos now a front runner in the Coastal? Seems no one wants to be on the losing side of another Clemson blowout in Charlotte..... Paws Down
I love these weeks that I am able to include our feathered friends from Columbia. Were those boo’s I was hearing come through my television screen in their game vs Texas A&M? Surely my ears were deceiving me ? They would never treat an upperclassmen, incumbent QB that way. Such a slap in the face. I had to have heard that wrong. I get it though. The thought of being on the wrong end of yet another 5 bomb had to be too much to bear, because as we all know, it just means more..... Paws Down
That is all I have this week, Leave your Paws Up, Paws Down bye week thoughts in the comments, and as always keep checking back with STS regularly as we will have plenty of analysis on the upcoming NCST game.