The Clemson Tigers haven't lost a game since the College Football Playoff semifinals in the 2017 season. A bit of heat and a talented Texas A&M team weren't about to cost them that streak.
Clemson was yet again dominant Saturday, beating Texas A&M 24-10. Quarterback phenom Trevor Lawrence was typically steady (24-of-35 for 268 yards and one touchdown with an interception), while his cast of playmakers came to play as well.
Running backs Travis Etienne (105 yards from scrimmage) and Lyn-J Dixon (79 rushing yards and a score) led the offense, while Justyn Ross (seven receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown) had a big afternoon.
The Clemson defense was an impenetrable force as usual, giving up just 289 yards and forcing two turnovers.
That wasn't great news for Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond, who struggled, finishing 24-of-42 for 236 yards and a touchdown with an interception. The Aggies simply never consistently generated offense, with their only touchdown coming late in the fourth quarter.
It was a reminder of why Clemson is the top team in the nation, while head coach Jimbo Fisher's Aggies showed potential but remain out of the Tigers' league.
Clemson's Defense Proves Tigers Are Deserving Title Front-Runners
Here are the defensive players Clemson lost to the NFL draft this offseason: Defensive end Clelin Ferrell (No. 4 overall), defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (No. 13), defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (No. 17), cornerback Trayvon Mullen (No. 40) and defensive end Austin Bryant (No. 117).
And it doesn't matter. Despite losing legitimate stars—and literally their entire starting defensive line—Clemson's defense remains absolutely dominant.
Linebacker Isaiah Simmons is a star. The secondary is elite. The defensive line may be inexperienced, but these are still highly regarded recruits who have proved to be a handful for two ACC opponents. Frankly, the level of talent on that side of the ball is a bit ridiculous.
What isn't ridiculous is Clemson's preseason ranking. This is the best team in college football. The Tigers have the best quarterback in the nation (Lawrence), an absurd wealth of playmakers on offense, a fantastic offensive line and, oh yeah, a truly stifling and loaded defense led by the best defensive coordinator in college football.
It's not fair. Well, at least not for the rest of the ACC, and potentially for the rest of college football's other title contenders.
In the past two weeks, Clemson has forced six turnovers and held each of its opponents to under 300 yards. And it's unlikely we've even seen the best version of Clemson to this point.
The sky's the limit for this defense, especially as its young players gain experience. As the old cliche goes, defense wins championships. So far, so good for Clemson.
Kellen Mond Must Improve for Texas A&M to Make Noise in SEC
Mond was awesome against Clemson a year ago, throwing for 430 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-26 loss. That version of Mond didn't show up this year, however.
Mond was just a touch off all game long, a fact that even his head coach acknowledged.
"We have a good football team but we have to play better. Mond couldn't get in a groove," Fisher said in his postgame press conference. "We dropped one and then missed one early. I thought he was just a hair off, but he kept battling and played hard."
He wasn't the only one who noticed:
Mond started slowly, missing on his first four passes before finally managing a completion on the team's third drive. Texas A&M established itself on that possession, holding on to the ball for 16 plays and taking seven minutes and 33 seconds off the clock. The team only managed a field goal, however, with Mond unable to crack Clemson's defense.
Had he presented more of a downhill threat, the Aggies may have had more success running the ball. Instead, they ran for just 53 yards, and while Mond threw for 236 yards, 47 of those yards came on the final drive of the game with the outcome already determined.
To be clear, the Aggies have a good team. A trip to Clemson is no easy task, and the Aggies didn't get rolled. Clemson was clearly the better team, but Texas A&M showed its potential.
But Mond has to be better. The Aggies need him to play like a star if they are to have any chance surviving a brutal schedule that includes matchups with Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and LSU.
That's four more teams ranked in the Top 10 at the moment. Mond can't afford to have off days like he had Saturday.
He has shown he can ball out in big moments. He was great against Clemson last year, for instance, and threw for 287 yards and six touchdowns in last year's wild 74-72, seven-overtime win against LSU. But in Texas A&M's three SEC losses last year, he was poor.
- Alabama: 16-of-33 for 196 yards, one touchdown and two picks.
- Mississippi State: 23-of-46 for 232 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
- Auburn: 16-of-32 for 220 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
In Texas A&M's nine wins last year, Mond completed 60 percent or more of his passes six times. But he failed to reach that mark in all four of the team's losses.
The Aggies have a talented team, but they aren't talented enough to overcome poor quarterback play against the upper-echelon teams they'll face this season. They proved as much last year, and Clemson showed it to be true once again Saturday.
Clemson hosts Syracuse next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET, while Texas A&M will host Lamar at 7 p.m. ET.