Dabo Swinney is probably not going to confirm that he used Tuesday’s No. 5 ranking from the College Football Playoff Selection Committee as a motivating factor but the combination of that and a bad N.C. State team taking the field certainly produced a lopsided result that many could have seen coming well before kickoff in Raleigh on Saturday night.
Clemson seemed to find success on nearly every snap they took in jumping out to a huge lead and never really looking back, pointing up to the scoreboard at halftime up 42-0 over a very overmatched and beat up Wolfpack side.
The Tigers, which led 28-0 in the first quarter thanks to a pair of turnovers inside opponent territory, looked to be firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball. Offensively, QB Trevor Lawrence was back to being the guy who led his team to a national title last year in throwing for 221 yards and three touchdowns (no interceptions). More than just his big arm though, he was a threat to pull it down and run it too in netting 51 yards on the ground with another score. Tailback Travis Etienne chipped in with 83 yards and a trip to the end zone as well.
Thanks were going so well, even offensive lineman John Simpson scored a touchdown by plunging into pay dirt as a fullback.
Not to be outdone, Clemson’s defense also forced three turnovers, had five tackles for loss, held NCSU to under four yards per play in the first half and just 103 yards total.
Both of those giveaways came mostly at the hand of QB Devin Leary, who fumbled one exchange near his own end zone, straight dropped another ball to the turf that was picked up the Tigers and fumbled a bad snap in the red zone just before the end of the second quarter. The ground game was non-existent (41 yards) while the offense picked up just four first downs in mounting just two drives longer than three plays.
So yeah, it has been a rough game for the home side in this ACC clash but that was probably to be expected given the motivation the top five team likely had coming in and the obvious talent disparity to start with.