Clemson Fights Past Florida State Instant Analysis

    Clemson stepped up as the No. 1 team in the country with a nasty, tough win over Florida State.

    November 7, 2015

    1. Don’t typecast Clemson

    A week ago, the Tigers rode five touchdown passes from QB Deshaun Watson to a victory over NC State on an afternoon that the defense was mortal. Today, they leaned a little harder on the D as the offense failed to produce its usual output. And therein the rub with trying to knock off this Clemson team—it’s comfortable winning in any situation.

    You want to drag the Tigers into a shootout? Good luck outgunning Watson. Defensive scrums? Bring it on.

    After a slow start, in which Dalvin Cook looked like he might run for 300 yards, Brent Venables’ defense settled down and took control of the game. Cook didn’t make a lot of noise after the opening quarter, but the Tiger D did, routinely coming up with big stands, like the fourth-and-one stop of Cook with six minutes left in a three-point game. Clemson adapts to the moment, aided by a dynamic mix of personnel, an overlooked trait for teams headed to where they’re going.

    2. Huge win for Clemson … pretty darn big for the ACC as well

    Of course, they’ll never admit it, but Atlantic Coast Conference officials were rooting for Clemson today … hard.

    If the ACC was going to have a representative in the second College Football Playoff, it needed the Tigers to end Florida State’s three-year chokehold on the conference. Yeah, yeah, the Seminoles could conceivably have been this year’s Ohio State, shaking off a loss to rally into contention with a strong finish. Possible, but not probable. To be safe, the league needed its only unbeaten member to remain its only unbeaten member.

    The ACC has its face of November, its bell-cow representative who’ll carry the conference banner throughout the next four weeks, when weekly rankings are released. And it’s going to take a major upset to keep the Tigers out of the playoff. Sure, South Carolina is a rivalry game and North Carolina is surging, but now that Clemson has slayed FSU, it’s unlikely to stumble between now and January.

    3. It’s time everyone labels Dabo Swinney one of the 10 or so best coaches in America.

    Swinney doesn’t get nearly enough respect nationally, but that’s on the verge of changing this season.

    What exactly must Swinney do to be properly sized up as one of the best young coaches in college football? He’s still only 45, yet he’s on the brink of his fifth consecutive 10-win season. Swinney is an ace recruiter, does a great job of assembling a staff and has made the Tigers a national entity. And he’s still in the embryonic stages of his development as a head coach.

    Swinney isn’t in that elite class of coaches that includes the likes of Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. Not nearly enough titles. But he’s in that next tier of coaches, even if few seem to recognize it. And now that his top-ranked Tigers have beaten Jimbo Fisher, Swinney is about to get a ton more of the national pub that he richly deserves.

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