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Clemson Football

Halfway Home: "I wouldn't trade them for anybody"

October 14, 2018
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The second half of Clemson's 2018 season begins now. Fall camp seems like it kicked off just seconds ago, yet here we are, headed into the NC State game.

The good news is that the last time we saw Clemson, they were having their way with Wake Forest in a 63-3 win, but will that performance, Clemson's best of the season, carry over into the matchup against an undefeated Wolfpack team?

For the second straight road game, Clemson played all 72 players that traveled. The Tigers' win against Wake Forest also marked the sixth time Clemson has started 6-0 under Dabo Swinney. 

After watching a wild weekend of college football, where 4 of the top 10 teams fell, Clemson perhaps had a bye at just the right time.

After watching a wild weekend of college football, where 4 of the top 10 teams fell, Clemson perhaps had their bye week at just the right time.

For the Tigers to have the type of finish they want to have, Travis Etienne and the run game have to be a consistent threat. The last time we saw the sophomore from Jennings, LA, he showcased his value to America with three touchdowns, including a 70-yard burst to extend Clemson’s lead to 28-0 on the Tigers' first play from scrimmage in the second half at Wake Forest. Etienne averaged 16.7 yards per carry last weekend. That’s not a misprint, folks.

Adam Choice and Lyn-J Dixon both need to continue to be complimentary backs and hopefully, a healthy Tavien Feaster will return at 100% this week. The play of Clemson's offensive line also seems to pick up once they see a spark in the run game.

Clemson's rushing attack put up 471 yards, the most rushing yards for the Tigers since 1981. It was also the second most rushing yards ever accumulated on the road. In case you are wondering, the 1903 team dropped 615 yards in a 73-0 win at Georgia Tech.

Will the staff continue to pound the ball? They should, and there are plenty of reasons why.

© David Grooms/Clemson Sports Talk
Travis Etienne sprints to the end zone during Clemson's 63-3 win at Wake Forest.

It’s clear moving forward that No. 9 has to continue to get his carries because it makes Trevor Lawrence and the passing game that much more lethal. It also protects Lawrence and takes pressure off of the true freshman quarterback.

Once Etienne and crew get going, it opens things up for guys like Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins downfield. When the Tigers can strike with chunk plays through the air they are deadly. If that trend continues, look out.

As for the defense, they seem to be getting better week by week. You would imagine that the ability to rest this weekend, along with a deep rotation will pay dividends as we head towards the end of the regular season.

The defensive front hasn't been as disruptive as advertised, but they are beginning to make plays. Freshman Xavier Thomas adds a level of "pop" to the unit that no one expected. Thomas is flashy and plays all out. His emergence is something to watch moving forward as it allows the defensive line to put out some very unique fronts.

The linebackers have played well and while the adjustment to not having a guy like Dorian O'Daniel on the field took a few weeks, things seem to be coming together for the unit.

The linebackers have played well, and while the adjustment to not having a guy like Dorian O'Daniel on the field took a few weeks, things seem to be coming together for the unit.

This secondary has certainly made strides since the A&M game, including holding Wake’s best player on offense, Greg Dortch to just 37 yards receiving last time out. That being said, those guys still need to stay healthy. It's a thin unit and one injury there would set Clemson back tremendously.

K'Von Wallace has been fun to watch this season and his hustle has saved several touchdowns. I don't know how he stacks up nationally talent-wise, but his effort is at the top. He just doesn't give up on plays. That's refreshing to see.

Back to this weekend's game, the undefeated Wolfpack will roll into Death Valley Saturday at 3:30. Keep in mind the Tigers and Wolfpack have played some tight ball games in recent years including last season's shootout in Raleigh.

The last time NC State came to Clemson, in 2016, it took a missed Kyle Bambard field goal at the end of regulation to keep Clemson's chances alive. The Tigers survived, 24-17 in overtime, during their run to a national title. Imagine if that kick had sailed through the uprights.

Looking beyond NC State, Clemson hits the road to Tallahassee next week to face a Florida State team that hasn't played well all season. Then Clemson hosts a struggling Louisville team before, a road trip to Boston College. The Tigers close the season with back-to-back home games against Duke and South Carolina.

Clemson will be favored to win all of those games, but the toughest games remaining will be the road trips to Tallahassee and Chestnut Hill. Don't sleep on Duke though. The Blue Devils have been a surprise this season, but playing them in Death Valley is a big advantage.

Looking at the big picture, here's the scary part for Clemson's opponents moving forward: Dabo Swinney said the Tigers 'are not a finished product.'

"We're a team that's getting better. We're a team that's growing up. We're a team that's playing really well and likes each other."
- Dabo Swinney

"We're a team that's getting better. We're a team that's growing up. We're a team that's playing really well and likes each other." We're a team that can play good defense.  We're a team that can hit some big plays on special teams. We're a team that's one of the most explosive teams in the country," Swinney said.

"I like this bunch. I wouldn't trade them for anybody."

The first College Football Playoff rankings come out on Tuesday, October 30. If Clemson is going to make a run towards their 4th straight appearance, they'll have to continue to improve and win handily.

Regardless of what happens, enjoy it Clemson fans because the Tigers are halfway home.

Halfway Home: "I wouldn't trade them for anybody"

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