CLEMSON, S.C. — Alabama is playing touch football. Notre Dame labored for three quarters against a dreadful Florida State team. Florida’s defensive weakness caught up with it. Even Georgia, which has been outstanding, trailed at halftime for the second time in three games.
Clemson? No struggles, no worries, no competition still from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Same as it ever was. In a year when nothing seems normal, Dabo dominance remains a constant.
Maybe that changes when the Tigers go to South Bend in November. Or maybe there is an ACC championship game test against North Carolina looming. But for now, once again, the best bet to go undefeated in college football is Clemson.
Hopes for a competitive game were kindled here Saturday night, when No. 7-ranked Miami came to town for a rare Top Ten matchup. The Hurricanes had looked great in piling up three opening victories, displaying a balanced offense and a playmaking defense. They had two weeks to prepare for this one, while the Tigers had one.
Yet it took all of one quarter and six seconds to extinguish those hopes, as Clemson scored touchdowns on its first two drives and squashed the Miami offense. Everything thereafter was a formality that ultimately ended in a 42-17 stroll through the rain. The Hurricanes believed this was their chance to prove something to the college football establishment, but the proof that came out of the night was that Clemson routinely rises to every big occasion.
“It’s woven into our culture here,” Dabo Swinney said afterward.
While all hell was breaking loose in other parts of the country, it was a normal Saturday in Death Valley. That’s now 25 straight ACC victories, and nine straight by at least 18 points.
What Clemson has that others do not: Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Brent Venables. That’s the best quarterback, the best running back and the best defensive coordinator in college football. Those are three nice things to have in what looks like an epically unsettled year.
All their gifts were on display against Miami.
Lawrence threw with pace, with precision and with touch, passing for 292 yards and three touchdowns while running his streak of pass attempts without an interception to 355. Among his career-high 41 attempts were several throws that some current NFL starting quarterbacks cannot make. He also manipulated the Hurricanes defense with play fakes and deftly read their coverages. He also once again showed his inherent toughness, bouncing back from a painful shot to the midsection that left him laid out on the field, then coming back and finishing the drive with a touchdown run. (And an uncharacteristic spike of the ball that drew a personal foul flag.)
“Helmet right to the stomach, knocked the breath out of me,” Lawrence said. “That’s something I pride myself on. To come back in the game and finish that drive was really important.”
And the spike?
“Just a dumb play on my part,” Lawrence said. “I shouldn’t