College Sports

Clemson blows out Miami 38-3, states case as best team in college football

Call it a thumping, a whupping, or just a good old-fashioned punch in the mouth – what happened Saturday night during the ACC Championship Game was about as lopsided as it gets.

The scoreboard told no lies: Clemson 38, Miami 3. The Tigers had 331 yards and scored five touchdowns. Miami had 214, mostly in garbage time, plus three turnovers.

But there is still something to be gleaned from this game, and that is this: Clemson will surely make its third consecutive College Football Playoff, and if it can maintain the level of play it showed Saturday, then it might advance to its third consecutive national championship game.

If there were any lingering questions about Clemson’s offense, or really anything at all, then its demolition of a 10-1 squad – not just the final margin of victory, but the way they dominated – left no doubts.

Three who mattered

Kelly Bryant: For all the skill players (emphasis on skill) that Clemson has at its disposable, Bryant is the conductor of the offensive symphony. Another fine stat line for him – 23 for 29, 252 yards passing and two total touchdowns .

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Clemson Tigers defensive lineman Christian Wilkins (42) celebrates a tackle during of the first half of the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte on Saturday. He finished with seven tackles and two pass deflections. Tim Dominick tdominick@thestate.com

Christian Wilkins: High up there on the list of people you don’t want to tackle you is Wilkins, who used every bit of his 6-foot-4, 300-pound frame to stifle Miami’s offense. He finished with seven tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and two pass deflections.

Ryan Carter: He’s not the biggest name on the Tigers’ defense, but he earned the imaginary turnover chain from teammates on Friday. Carter forced a fumble and had an interception.

Observations

▪  Bryant started the game 15-for-15 for 164 yards before tossing his first incompletion midway through the second quarter. For as impressive and dominant as that was, he then proceeded to throw five consecutive incompletions.

▪  Clemson’s receivers were incredible blockers, which allowed the screens they prefer to be much more effective. Willing blocking on defensive backs was the difference between gaining 2 yards or 8.

▪  Miami really missed receiver Ahmmon Richards and tight end Chris Herndon, missed the game with injuries. The Hurricanes struggled to get anything going in the passing game without them. Their leading receiver for the game, Braxton Berrios, had seven catches for 51 yards.

▪  For everything made up about Miami’s turnover chain, it was actually the Hurricanes who struggled to hold onto the ball. The irony was when Clemson’s defenders got to give each other invisible turnover chains with every takeaway.

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Clemson fan Shane Moore of Greenville, S.C., shows of his chain during of the first half of the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte on Saturday. Tim Dominick tdominick@thestate.com

▪  So much for Clemson’s supposed home-field advantage. While there were plenty of Tigers fans in attendance, give credit to the Hurricanes’ fan base for traveling well. Probably more of a 60-40 split (in Clemson’s favor) than 80-20.

Worth mentioning

▪  Clemson receiver Deon Cain had his 36th straight game with a reception, one of the longest streaks in the country.

▪  Etienne’s first-quarter score, his 13th this season, tied a Clemson freshman record for total touchdowns (the other player was current Los Angeles Rams receiver Sammy Watkins).

▪  The 35-point margin of victory is the second-largest in ACC Championship Game history.

They said it

“They thoroughly whipped us.” – Miami coach Mark Richt.

“They came out, and from the beginning they jumped us.” – Miami receiver Braxton Berrios.

“That was me and Ray-Ray (McCloud), he came up with it. It was pretty neat.” – Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant on his turnover chain celebration after a touchdown.

Brendan Marks: 704-358-5889, @brendanrmarks

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