Georgia vs. Clemson: 10 Things We Learned from Tigers' Win
The Clemson Tigers defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 38-35 in Death Valley. Clemson was able to rely on Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins to provide the offensive spark while Roderick McDowell complemented them with a powerful running game.
But there were some things that we learned or confirmed about Clemson in a true test against a top-10 team. And while they were tested, we saw the true strengths and weaknesses of a very talented team that could compete for the National Championship.
Tajh Boyd Is Really Good, but Needs to Get More Consistent
Tajh Boyd is an excellent quarterback. He's one of the best in all of college football and should go in the top two rounds of the NFL Draft come April. But he needs to learn how to keep up his consistency and his intensity.
There were periods during the middle of the game where Boyd wasn't throwing great passes. But when the game really mattered, he locked it down and won the game for the Tigers.
He finished with an excellent passing line of 18-for-30 (60.0 percent) for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns while rushing for 42 yards on 13 carries and scoring two rushing touchdowns. He also committed no turnovers.
Roderick McDowell Will Quietly Provide a Running Game
Clemson came in without last year's star back Andre Ellington due to graduation and had to replace him with someone who could be the same kind of bruiser. They have definitely found that in Roderick McDowell.
Despite mediocre blocking up front, McDowell was able to rack up 132 yards on 22 carries for an average of 6.0 yards per carry, and also had a catch for 10 yards. He will provide a running game without catching national headlines—exactly what Ellington did.
Sammy Watkins Is the Real Deal
Sammy Watkins is the next big name wide receiver to go in the top 10 of the draft. He's a monster. His 6'1", 205-pound frame combined with speed that projects to be almost as fast as the Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones will make him a Heisman candidate.
He showed a ton of that potential Saturday with his six catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. His long catch of 77 yards was spectacular in that he was able to break a tackle before sprinting to the end zone at full speed.
The Tigers Have Some Talent Outside of Watkins and Boyd in the Passing Game
The Tigers have a ton of talent for Tajh Boyd to fire the ball to. Specifically, Stanton Seckinger and Charone Peake are great intermediate receiving talents.
Seckinger plays tight end and despite being just 6'4" and 210 pounds, he showed an ability to find holes in the zone defenses Georgia was running. He also worked the sideline on a nine-yard touchdown catch that put the Tigers up 10 with just 7:40 left in the game.
Peake is a solidly sized 6'3", 200-pound receiver who has shown to be a good No. 2 possession guy. His five catches on the night all came in traffic. Three of his five catches were on either third or fourth down for a conversion. It's an important role that's needed in Clemson's offense.
Clemson's Offensive Line Has Trouble Picking Up Blitzes and Stunts
While the rest of the offense seems to be clicking well, the offensive line needs a ton of help with their protections. Georgia throws unique blitzes and stunts at teams, but Clemson was having trouble picking them up even after halftime and seeing them for two full quarters.
Luckily, Tajh Boyd is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the country. He was able to avoid any sack attempt and turn it into either no gain or a few positive yards.
Run Defense Has Some Holes
As good as the Clemson offense was, their run defense was the opposite. They allowed 222 yards on 41 carries for a 5.4-yard average, and all five touchdowns that Georgia scored were on the ground.
Most of that came on big plays, too.
Todd Gurley's 75-yard touchdown run and Quayvon Hicks' 37-yard run right up the middle exposed the biggest hole in Clemson's defense. They need to expand on their run-defense schemes to make sure that this doesn't happen again.
Pass Rush Is Excellent
While the offensive line had trouble containing Georgia's pass rush, the defense was able to create their own excellent pass rush. It led to four sacks of Aaron Murray and had him scrambling around like a chicken with his head cut off all night.
The pass rush also led to a unique interception where defensive end Corey Crawford dropped back into coverage and picked off a short pass. Without Brent Venables calling these intelligently put-together schemes, the Tigers would have had very little pass rush against the Bulldogs.
Coverage Is Still a Work in Progress, but It's Still Better Than Last Year
Despite an excellent pass rush, the coverage that the Tigers provided wasn't very good. They allowed 20 out of Aaron Murray's 29 passes to be completed for 323 yards and outside of Crawford's drop back into coverage, they didn't have any interceptions.
With better overall coverage, the Tigers could end up winning a national championship. But unfortunately, they need to fix their coverage deficiencies before this happens.
Clemson Played More Disciplined and Heads-Up Football and Won Because of It
When two top teams play each other, the difference will always come down to who turns the ball over and who plays the most disciplined football.
Dabo Swinney had his team playing more disciplined football with just five penalties for 38 yards. That's less than half the yardage that Georgia accumulated (84) on their nine penalties.
They also played football that was almost flawlessly clean. With just one turnover, they were able to minimize any mistakes and damage. Luckily, they had a plus-one turnover differential, and an Aaron Murray fumble is what changed the momentum over to Clemson for the win.
Death Valley Is Raucous as Ever
Finally, the biggest thing taken away from the game was that Clemson's Memorial Stadium—better known as Death Valley—is still the loudest stadium in the ACC. That noise played a huge factor in the Tigers' win as this true home-field advantage caused miscues by the Bulldogs offense.
When the crowd is helping cause procedural penalties, it's tough to win a game. By creating one of the most hostile atmospheres out there, Clemson was able to have that slight edge needed to win the game.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy Spotrac and Rotoworld. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.