In a game where the outcome fit the history of the rivalry to a tee, the Clemson Tigers emerged victorious in more ways than one. The Tiger defense showed the nation they have a pulse. The Tiger offense reminded the world they are a force to be reckoned with.
And the Tigers, as a team, let the nation know they have their eyes on the crystal football, too.
While the Bulldogs piled up more total yards than the Tigers, it was Clemson that was in control of the game, from start to finish. While the Dawgs would tie the game three times and even take the lead early in the second quarter, the Tigers would never surrender the advantage after a 31-yard touchdown strike from Tajh Boyd to Zac Brooks with 11 minutes to go in the third put them on top, 28-21.
Despite the yards and the 35 points allowed, Clemson made it clear in its actions that it is certainly a team that belongs in the national-title discussion. Boyd is a legitimate Heisman contender, Sammy Watkins is still one of the nation's most dangerous receivers and Roderick McDowell is a more-than-adequate replacement for Andre Ellington.
Does Clemson belong in the national championship discussion?
Most importantly, while the defense is not top-notch, it can get pressure on the quarterback and get off the field when it has to.
In year two, defensive coordinator Brent Venables' defense showed true growth in understanding the scheme. The defensive corps sacked Aaron Murray four times, and while Todd Gurley put up 154 yards rushing, the defense gave up 120 of those yards on three disastrous carries, holding Gurley to just 34 yards on his other nine carries in the ballgame.
The Tigers took down the SEC East favorite and are poised to make a run through the ACC. With a signature win over the Bulldogs to start the season, they have inserted themselves into the championship conversation, and rightfully so.
Clemson deserves to be mentioned with the best in the nation. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is the team with the most impressive win in Week 1. As the season progresses, Clemson may fall back into its old ways, but for one night in August, the Tigers belong among the sport's elite.