FQ’s Team of the Week: Week 16, 2020 — Clemson

by Mike Ferguson

Photo courtesy of Clemson athletics

Death, taxes, Clemson winning the ACC.

Clemson notched its sixth straight conference crown on Saturday and did so in dominant fashion. The Tigers avenged their only loss of the season with an impressive 34-10 win over No. 2 Notre Dame in the ACC Championship in Charlotte.

The victory not only earned the Tigers a No. 2 national ranking and playoff berth, but it earned them the final “Team of the Week” designation from the Fifth Quarter staff.

Revenge, Sweet Revenge

On Nov. 7, Clemson saw its 29-game ACC winning streak go by the wayside. The Tigers fell to the Fighting Irish in South Bend in a double-overtime thriller, 47-40.

There wasn’t much drama in Saturday’s contest. Clemson gave up an early field goal, but scored the game’s next 34 points.

Much was made about quarterback Trevor Lawrence being healthy, but the biggest difference on Saturday was the defense. After allowing Notre Dame to put up 518 yards and 208 on the ground in the first meeting, the Tigers held the Fighting Irish to just 263 yards on Saturday.

Notre Dame managed just 44 yards rushing on 30 carries while quarterback Ian Book was never able to make or extend plays with his legs. Malcolm Greene led Clemson with 1.5 sacks. As a team, the Tigers tallied six sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Notre Dame was just 3-for-12 on third down conversions.

The Stars Shine

It’s well known that Lawrence was out for Clemson in the first meeting between the teams this season. In his absence, D.J. Uiagalelei was stellar with 439 yards passing, but Lawrence’s ability to run the zone read opened the entire offense on Saturday.

Lawrence finished with 322 yards passing and two scores on Saturday, but his impact didn’t stop there. Lawrence added 90 yards rushing and a touchdown. In the first meeting, Clemson managed just 34 yards on 33 carries. Running back Travis Etienne rebounded from a rough first meeting to finish with a game-high 124 yards rushing and a score on just 10 carries.

As a team, Clemson finished with 219 yard rushing on 8.1 yards per carry. Out wide, Amari Rogers didn’t disappoint with eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.

ACC Domination

As mentioned, the victory gave Clemson a sixth straight ACC title. The Tigers however, aren’t just winning the ACC. They’re dominating it.

During the current stretch for Clemson, the Tigers are winning the ACC Championship game by a margin of more than 25 points per game. Saturday’s contest was the closest for Clemson in Charlotte since beating Virginia Tech 42-35 in 2016.

Against ACC opponents, Clemson is 53-3 since 2015. The six straight ACC crowns is the most for any team since Florida State won nine straight from 1992 to 2000.

Up Next

With the win on Saturday, Clemson moves to No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Tigers will now face No. 3 Ohio State in a Sugar Bowl rematch of last season’s national semifinal.

Last season, the Tigers rallied from 16 points down to beat Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, 29-23. Lawrence found Etienne for the go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. Clemson sealed the victory when Nolan Turner picked off Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in the end zone.

Clemson is 4-0 all-time against the Buckeyes. The Sugar Bowl takes place on Jan. 1 at 8 p.m. ET. It will air nationally on ESPN.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

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