Tee Higgins

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No. 3 Clemson wins fifth consecutive ACC championship as they return to College Football Playoff

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The defending national champions are back for some more. No. 3 Clemson (13-0, 8-0 ACC) locked up a fifth consecutive ACC Championship Game victory Saturday night with a 62-17 victory over No. 23 Virginia (9-4, 6-2 ACC), and with that all but officially submitted their R.S.V.P. for this season’s College Football Playoff. What’s not to respect?

Trevor Lawrence passed for 302 yards and four touchdowns before getting an early exit in the fourth quarter, with Clemson leading 45-14 at the time. Travis Etienne rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown and star receiver Tee Higgins hauled in nine passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns. Virginia’s Bryce Perkins had some positive moments with 265 passing yards and two passing touchdowns with 52 rushing yards, but he was picked off twice. His first interception came at the end of the game’s opening possession in the end zone.

Clemson’s 62 points are the most point scored by a team in the ACC Championship Game, which was first played in 2005. Clemson has now outscored its opponents in the ACC Championship Game by a cumulative score of 229-102 over the last five seasons. Clemson has held each of their last three ACC Championship Game opponents to 30 points (3 vs. Miami in 2017, 10 vs Pitt last season, and 17 against Virginia). Clemson is now 5-1 all-time in the ACC Championship Game with their only loss coming as an underdog in 2009 against Georgia Tech.

After 13 consecutive wins this season, on top of the 15 straight wins Clemson had last season en route to a national title, Clemson is going to be riding a 28-game winning streak back into the College Football Playoff. With Alabama being knocked out of the playoff race last week, Clemson will now own the longest active streak of playoff appearances with five straight. That matches Alabama’s record set last year with the Crimson Tide’s fifth consecutive appearance. This will be the first College Football Playoff without Alabama. All that is left to determine is what seed the defending champs will have. Whether Clemson is ranked No. 2 or No. 3 ultimately wouldn’t matter as the Tigers wouldn’t get to have a say which bowl destination they’d prefer, nor would it change the opponent. While Clemson will feel they made a case to be considered as the No. 1 team in the field, that decision now rests with the selection committee, which will make their final decisions on Sunday. A matchup with either LSU or Ohio State is likely the pairing for Clemson. Dabo Swinney will certainly have his team ready for whatever comes next, as his fight for respect will continue even if nobody is actually disrespecting his program these days.

Virginia’s bowl outlook is also likely fixed. Win or lose, Virginia was likely to be in the Orange Bowl, either as the ACC champion or the bowl’s pick from the ACC. When the ACC champion is in the College Football Playoff and unavailable for the Orange Bowl, the next highest-ranked ACC team fills the slot. Virginia being the only other ranked ACC team this week by the committee seems to suggest Virginia will be the locked pick for the Orange Bowl, although if Virginia manages to slip out of the playoff rankings, the Orange Bowl could choose from any available ACC team that is bowl eligible. But even in that scenario, Virginia would likely still be the pick. Virginia would play a team from the SEC or Big Ten, with the opponent being the highest-ranked available team from either conference. The Florida Gators may be the most likely opponent, with Penn State as the alternative. Regardless of how the first experience in the ACC Championship Game went for Virginia, Bronco Mendenhall continues to be doing a terrific job in building the Virginia football program, and a chance to play in the Orange Bowl is a significant step forward.

No. 1 Clemson hangs on against UNC for 20th straight win

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Over the course of a 20-game winning streak, there are bound to be some close calls. On Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, No. 1 Clemson (5-0, 3-0 ACC) had one of the closest calls of their current 20-game winning streak as the Tigers held on to escape an upset bid by North Carolina (2-3, 1-1 ACC), 21-20. Clemson came up with a stop on a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute of the game and prevented UNC from coming up with an onside kick to grab the win.

North Carolina did a good job of keeping Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence off his mark for most of the night (Lawrence was 18-of-30 for 206 yards and a touchdown), but he delivered a perfect pass to give Clemson its first lead of the game in the fourth quarter with a pass to Tee Higgins.

UNC had an answer, however. Freshman quarterback Sam Howell led the Tar Heels on a 16-play drive and 75 yards to get on the doorstep of the end zone in the final minutes of the game. Javonte Williams pushed the ball in for a touchdown to cut the Clemson lead to one. Head coach Mack Brown didn’t hesitate and was ready to go for two and the win. But Clemson was ready for the play and was all over Howell on the run.

After the win, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney praised the effort by the Tar Heels and admitted to being out-coached by Brown. Swinney also said his team is not entitled to win and still has to go out and earn their wins just like everybody else.

Clemson now continues to extend its winning streak to 20 games, a school record. After getting next week off, the Tigers will host Florida State. North Carolina will visit Georgia Tech next week. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 24-2 loss at Temple.

Clemson remains perfect after clobbering Florida State in most lopsided win in series history

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No. 2 Clemson (8-0, 5-0 ACC) is starting to have that look again. The Tigers were challenged early against Florida State (4-4, 2-4 ACC) in a scoreless first quarter, but Clemson woke up after that and left no doubt about how good they are. Clemson’s 59-10 victory over Florida State was the biggest margin for victory by the Tigers in the history of the series. It was so lopsided, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had the luxury of inserting backup players in the third quarter.

Trevor Lawrence passed for 314 yards and four touchdowns before getting the entire fourth quarter off. Lawrence had a rough start to the game as it took time for he and the rest of the Clemson offense to get comfortable against a feisty start by the Florida State defense, but once the big plays started coming together, there was no looking back. Tee Higgins caught two touchdown passes inside the red zone to help get the Tigers on their roll, and Amari Rodgers pulled in two touchdown catches to go with his 156 receiving yards.

Clemson’s defense made life difficult for Florida State all afternoon. The Seminoles had a team total of -21 rushing yards and the team combined for 253 yards of offense in the game. Meanwhile, Clemson racked up more than double that with 523 yards, including 404 through the air. Florida State was also penalized 16 times for 140 yards, and two turnovers led to Clemson points when the game was still relatively up for grabs. For as uch progress as Florida State seemed to be making in recent weeks, all of that went out the window against Clemson.

Clemson’s 49-point victory is the largest margin for victory by Clemson in the all-time series against Florida State, and the second-most lopsided victory by either team in the series. Florida State defeated Clemson 57-0 in 1993 and 48-0 in 1998. Florida State also had a 47-point victory over the Tigers in 2000.

Next up for Clemson is a home game against Louisville. The Cardinals have been struggling mightily this season, which seems to suggest there should be another comfortable Clemson win on the horizon. Three of the final four games Clemson plays will come at home, with the only road trip remaining coming up in two weeks at Boston College. The fate of the division could come down to that game.

Florida State plays their next two games on the road, first at NC State next week and then at Notre Dame after that. The margin for error to get to a bowl game is beginning to get razor thin for the Seminoles. Florida State needs two wins in their final four games in order to go bowling. The two home games remaining will be played against Boston College and Florida.

Clemson on cruise control at Florida State with 28-0 halftime lead

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Florida State was already going to have a difficult time competing with Clemson, but penalties and a turnover have only hurt their chances of pulling a big upset in the ACC this afternoon. Clemson is taking a 28-0 lead into the second half in Doak Campbell Stadium, moving the defending ACC champions one half closer to maintaining sole possession of first place in the ACC Atlantic Division.

Florida State’s defense managed to keep things interesting early on by keeping Clemson’s offense out of sync. Trevor Lawrence had a rough start to the game but has kept his poise and managed to throw a pair of touchdowns while Travis Etienne is fighting for every yard he can when given the chance to run.

Clemson ended up taking advantage of a penalty on Florida State’s special teams unit in the second quarter. After the Seminoles were flagged for roughing the kicker on a missed Clemson field goal, the Tigers capitalized on the free first down with Lawrence completed a seven-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins on 3rd & 5.

Lawrence would connect with Higgins again on Clemson’s next possession to take a 14-0 lead. After Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois was intercepted on a 3rd and 20 pass attempt by Tre Lamar, Clemson added to their lead with a goal-line touchdown run by Christian Wilkins. Clemson would score a fourth touchdown on their fourth straight drive the offense’s next time up late in the half to push the lead to 28-0.

Florida State has been flagged seven times for 59 penalty yards. Further complicating things for Florida State is an apparent injury to Dontavious Jackson, who was helped off the field late in the half. The linebacker’s status was unknown but his potential loss would be a tough blow for Florida State’s defense. Defensive back Stanford Samuels also came off the field on the same drive.

It’s already been one long half for Florida State, and there are still 30 minutes to go in Tallahassee.

Auto dealer deletes photo of Clemson WR Tee Higgins with fancy car

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There may have been some slight panic attacks for the Clemson football program this weekend after an auto dealer posted an image of wide receiver Tee Higgins in front of a top-of-the-line sports car. Fortunately for Clemson, there may be no real need for the NCAA to come open an investigation after the auto dealer deleted the image from its Facebook page rather quickly.

The photo of Higgins came from True Auto Mart in Piedmont, South Carolina. With Higgins posing in front of a McLaren Spider valued at about $200,000, the message from the dealer thanked Higgins for coming to purchase a vehicle at the dealer. Naturally, with the message attached to a photo of a prominent wide receiver from a college football program, it was easy for many to come to a quick conclusion that Higgins bought the car in the photo.

The dealership went on the record to say Higgins did not purchase the car he posed with in the photo, although he did take a ride in it.

“Mr. Higgins didn’t purchase the car in the picture,” the dealer later clarified, according to a report from FitsNews. “However he did love the McLaren and went for a ride in it. It gave him a lot of inspiration to be even better so he can get one with his signing bonus when he gets drafted to the NFL.”

Higgins also requested the image be taken down from the dealer’s Facebook page. Per FitsNews;

“We took the picture down at the request of Mr. Higgins,” another subsequent post from the dealership added. “We did not want to cause any problems for him even though there has been no wrong doing from him or us. We just wanted to post a picture with him in front of a nice car. We are working on getting him in one of our cars currently. We never said he bought the car he was standing in front of. Our other pictures we have of customers states the car they bought. This picture never stated what car he bought if any. People are always quick to judge and come to a false conclusion. It is a shame that a lot of people just want ridicule instead of saying something nice.”

A quick scan of the dealer’s Facebook page shows a string of photos of customers posing in front of their new purchases. The image with Higgins was clearly a publicity stunt for the dealer with no regard for any potential NCAA issues that may arise.

Helmet sticker to SB Nation.