The second-ranked Clemson Tigers continued their winning ways Saturday by knocking off the Florida State Seminoles 45-14 at Memorial Stadium in South Carolina.
After a near-upset two weeks ago against North Carolina, the Tigers lost their spot atop the AP Top 25 and the Amway Coaches Poll. There have been concerns about the reigning national champions, especially on offense with quarterback Trevor Lawrence not progressing as expected.
Lawrence did a great job of reminding everyone why he was a preseason Heisman favorite against Florida State's defense. The sophomore sensation tied his season high in touchdown passes (three) in the first 23 minutes of Saturday's win.
- QB Trevor Lawrence (Clemson): 17-of-25, 170 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; six carries, 40 yards, 1 TD
- RB Travis Etienne (Clemson): 17 carries, 127 yards; 1-of-1, 23 yards
- WR Justyn Ross (Clemson): five receptions, 61 yards, 2 TDs
- QB James Blackman (Florida State): 8-of-20, 60 yards, 2 INTs
- QB Alex Hornibrook (Florida State): 8-of-12, 84 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Lawrence's Diverse Skill Set Gives Tigers Boost
One problem with constantly evaluating talent for the NFL is it's easy to overlook the things a player does at the college level that make them special.
Lawrence also played a role in his expectations because of how he closed last season against Notre Dame and Alabama in the College Football Playoff. If you look at his first six starts in 2019 compared to 2018 when he became the full-time starter on Sept. 29 against Syracuse, there's not a significant difference.
The Georgia native completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 1,244 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in those first six starts last year. He entered Saturday completing 61.8 percent of his passes for 1,131 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions.
"It's kind of nice now, everyone says we suck so we're kind of in the backseat and can just go to work and not really worry about all the No. 1 expectations and all that, so it'll be good," Lawrence told reporters earlier this week.
This was a game when Lawrence allowed his performance to speak for itself. He's using his athleticism a lot more with five rushing touchdowns on the season, including one in the first quarter Saturday.
There appears to be a narrative rising up around Lawrence about why he isn't playing at the same level as, say, Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa.
Head coach Dabo Swinney seemed to get annoyed earlier this week when a reporter asked if his star quarterback had an MRI on his shoulder stemming from a hit in the Texas A&M game:
"Ain't nothing wrong with Trevor. Zero. Nothing. If we did an MRI, that ain't nobody's business. We do MRIs all the time. ALL the time. All the time. I mean a guy gets a bruise on his knee, we do an MRI. Guy bruises his elbow we do an MRI. It's like we've got to find-- it drives me crazy. There's no drama on this team, so it's like we've got to create some. 'Oh, Trevor missed a throw. He must be hurt.' No— he's human. He's human, alright."
Swinney is defending his player, as any head coach would do, but he's also making a point about Lawrence going through typical growing pains that aren't afforded to star athletes. Lawrence is only 20 years old and has 17 starts on his resume.
One thing that doesn't get discussed enough is Clemson doesn't need Lawrence to be the best quarterback in the country to win because the defense is still as dominant as ever. The Tigers have allowed a total of 74 points through six games and have yet to allow more than 294 yards to an opponent.
There may eventually come a point when Lawrence has to win a game for Clemson, but there are plenty of instances this decade of Alabama winning national titles on the back of a dominant defense and an efficient offense.
Florida State will play No. 19 Wake Forest at BB&T Field in North Carolina next Saturday, while Clemson will travel to Cardinal Stadium to take on Louisville.