Friday, December 28, 2018

Road to the CFP semifinal: No. 2 Clemson Tigers

Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka- Getty Images

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

In an era where few teams sustain success to where it can contend on a yearly basis, the No. 2 Clemson Tigers (13-0) have been one of the few teams to do achieve that feat.

With a win over No. 3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl Classic on Dec. 29, Clemson would make it three national championship appearances in the last four seasons. Here is the road the Tigers traveled to get to the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Sept. 1 vs Furman, W 48-7

- The quarterback battle between Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence remained unanswered as both made their cases to be the full-time starter. Lawrence threw for three touchdowns and scored on all five of his drives, while Bryant completed nine passes and a TD.

Sept. 8 at Texas A&M, W 28-26

- On a steamy, Saturday night in College Station, Clemson got arguably its toughest test of the regular season as Texas A&M gave them all it could handle and then some.

Trevor Lawrence could not drive Clemson down the field in the third quarter and Kelly Bryant took over and carried the way behind a 205-yard performance through the air and a touchdown pass and a run in a two-point win.

The Tigers' defensive line played a big part in the road victory as they helped put together 10 tackles for loss and four sacks.

Sept. 15 vs Georgia Southern, W 38-7

- In a game where it looked to almost be cancelled because of Hurricane Florence, running back Travis Etienne grabbed life by the horns and ran for a career-high 162 yards as Clemson breezed past Georgia Southern by 31 points to move to 3-0 as ACC play loomed.

Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech, W 49-21

- In the annual rivalry game contested this season at Bobby Dodd Stadium, it would be Clemson who got the upper-hand behind Trevor Lawrence's four-touchdown effort, which led to the end of the Kelly Bryant era as he declared to leave the program and transfer days after the result.

Sept. 29 vs Syracuse, W 27-23

- With Bryant gone from the program, things appeared to be rocky, but stable with a full-time starter in Trevor Lawrence. However, things got rocky as Lawrence would be knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Enter Chase Brice.

Brice guided a 94-yard drive in the fourth quarter, which would be capped by Etienne's two-yard TD in a four-point win over a Syracuse team that would go on to win nine games and ranked as high as 12th in the College Football Playoff rankings.

Oct. 6 at Wake Forest, W 63-3

- It was a feast in Winston Salem as three Tiger running backs finished with at least 100 yards on the ground (Etienne 167 yards, three touchdowns, Lyn-J Dixon 163 yards, two TD's and Adam Choice 128 yards, TD).

Oct. 20 vs No. 16 NC State, W 41-7

- Lawrence showed development and growth with his best performance to date in a 308-yard outing through the air, to go along with a touchdown.

Oct. 27 at Florida State, W 59-10

- In what appeared to be a close affair between divisional rivals turned into a one-sided finish as Clemson became the first team to hand Florida State four straight losses in a series since it joined the ACC in 1992.

Nov. 3 vs Louisville, W 77-16

- The Tiger train continued to run on all cylinders as they recorded their fourth straight win by double digits.

Nov. 10 at No. 17 Boston College, W 27-7

- On a chilly Saturday night in Chestnut Hill, Clemson's defense made the difference in a 20-point win as defensive tackle Christian Wilkins knocked out Boston College quarterback Anthony Brown in the first quarter.

Brown left the game with internal injuries as Clemson's defense had a field day on Boston College star running back AJ Dillon as he would be held to 39 yards on 16 carries.

Nov. 17 vs Duke, W 35-6

- Despite trailing 6-0 after one quarter, Clemson figured out a way to inject a lethal dose of its poisonous offense in Duke's defense as it scored 35 straight en route to a victory and an 8-0 mark in ACC play.

Nov. 24 vs South Carolina, W 56-35

- Trevor Lawrence took the next step in his evolution with a career-high 393 yards passing, which counted the Clemson defense giving up 600 yards to South Carolina.

Dec. 1 vs Pittsburgh (ACC Championship Game), W 42-10

- The rematch of Pitt's last-second upset from 2016 would be the polar opposite as Clemson controlled the tempo from the outset.

Clemson became the first ACC team to win four consecutive conference championship games, which would be highlighted by Etienne's 156 yards on the ground.