For the sixth year in a row, the Palmetto Bowl trophy will stay in Clemson following the Tigers’ 38-3 victory over South Carolina on Saturday, the second-longest win streak by either side in the rivalry series.
Clemson dominated the game in every phase, outgaining the Gamecocks in yardage, 527-174. The Tigers became the first team ever to hold all 12 regular season opponents under 300 total yards, a feat Brent Venables has to be geeking at. Clemson also won its seventh-straight game by 30 or more points, joining Houston in 2011 and Michigan in 1976 as the only teams to accomplish this feat since 1936.
Paws Up: Trevor Lawrence stays hot
Number 16 was in peak performance on Saturday, completing 26 of his 36 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns, his seventh consecutive game with three or more touchdown passes this season. All three of Lawrence’s touchdown passes were absolute beauties, dropping the first two over the shoulders of Tee Higgins before finding Justyn Ross for six late in the first half. Lawrence’s game has gotten better tremendously over the course of the season. Since his rough start through the Tigers’ first five games, Lawrence has thrown for 1,739 yards and 22 touchdowns, only throwing three interceptions. Lawrence is also completing 75 percent of his throws over the last seven games and has thrown a touchdown pass in 22 straight contests, the longest active streak among current quarterbacks. His play against South Carolina was phenomenal. Lawrence was only sacked once despite being under pressure for most of the game. Lawrence showed his pocket awareness and scrambling ability as he evaded would-be tacklers several times to gain yards and pick up first downs (Lawrence also rushed a team-high 66 yards in the win). Clemson’s decision to run Lawrence in the second half with a big lead was questionable, but the decision hurt no one as Lawrence was able to pick up his second career victory over the Gamecocks.
Paws Down: BT Potter’s field goal woes continue
B.T. Potter may not have missed his game-tying kick against his fierce rival like the poor soul from Alabama did this past weekend (or had to be the lead blocker on a fake field goal in the national championship game), but Potter has still struggled over the course of the season to find that rhythm in the kicking game. Potter has only made 10 of his 17 attempted field goals for a 58.8 percent field goal percentage, going one-for-two in this past weekend’s contest. Potter has been excellent this season from short-range (3-for-4) and even from long-range (2-for-2), but Potter’s mid-range game has suffered. On kicks from anywhere between 30 and 49 yards, Potter has only made five of his 11 attempts, a whopping 45 percent. Potter’s miss on Saturday came from 32 yards out, which is a reasonable make for a kicker like Potter. Whatever the issue, Potter’s inconsistencies have been noticeable all year, and Dabo Swinney has been vocal about his need for Potter to improve in order to ensure his team’s success. Nonetheless, Potter is still an excellent kicker that Clemson will have to rely on in the postseason.
Paws Up: Justyn Ross’ resurgence at wide receiver
Justyn Ross has been quiet for most of the season, being overshadowed by fellow receivers Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers, but the MVP of Clemson’s championship run a year ago had his biggest game against the Gamecocks since that national title game last season. Ross had a career-high nine receptions for 111 yards, hauling in his lone touchdown right before halftime. The sophomore still has had a solid year, leading the team in receptions (52) while racking up 648 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. His toe-tap touchdown in the corner of the endzone against South Carolina was about as beautiful as they come. If nothing else, Ross’ big game hopefully jump started his run into the postseason, which is what we saw a year ago from the young freshman who came on hot late in the season to help Clemson win the national championship. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Ross plays a crucial role in the Clemson offense and is one of Lawrence’s key targets. If a healthy and hungry Justyn Ross is what Clemson is going to have during its postseason run, the rest of the country might be in trouble.
Clemson has already secured three of its preseason goals: Win the opener, win the division and win the state. The Tigers can scratch off their next goal with a victory over the Virginia Cavaliers in this weekend’s ACC Championship Game in Charlotte (7:30 p.m., ABC). With a win, Clemson will most likely clinch its fifth straight trip to the College Football Playoff, aiming to win its third national title in four years. Only Notre Dame, Nebraska and Alabama have won three national titles in four years during the AP Poll era (since 1936).