No. 1 Clemson got off to a sluggish start to its early kickoff against Georgia Tech on Saturday. But after a few mental mistakes and the cobwebs were cleared, the Tigers turned took a 7-7 score and turned it into a 52-7 halftime lead and eventually a 73-7 final in one of the most impressive blowouts you'll see anywhere in college football this week.
Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for a career-high 404 yards on 24-of-32 passing with five touchdowns and one interception; he was done for the day after the first drive of the second half. Much of that early damage done through the passing game was courtesy of the speedy senior wide receiver Amari Rodgers (six catches, 161 yards, two touchdowns), but the first half included touchdown grabs for Cornell Powell, Frank Ladson and tight end Davis Allen.
Lawrence gives any group of skill players a high floor, but the ceiling for the pass game was always going to be determined by how the wide receivers stepped up after the departure of Tee Higgins and the loss of Justyn Ross to injury. Early in the season, the answer was leaning on Rodgers and running back Travis Etienne, players who often get mismatches against defenders and excel at making plays after the catch. Even after Lawrence left the game, a big theme of the day was the depth at receiver as players like Ladson, E.J. Williams and Ajou Ajou flashed throughout the day.
Georgia Tech had some life early thanks to a nice call that had Jalen Camp open down the field for along touchdown, but the Tigers defense buttoned things up after that early scoring drive. Jeff Sims had 59 yards passing on that scoring play to Camp and just 22 yards on the rest of his pass attempts, as the Yellow Jackets offense was limited to just 204 yards at 3.5 yards per play.
Coaches have bemoaned the absence of nonconference games from the schedule -- not expressly because they give the opportunity for extra wins but instead for the extra reps that backups get in games that get lopsided. That playing time on Saturdays is impossible to replicate during the week or in preseason, and it's huge for solidifying a team's depth.
Clemson just used Georgia Tech, its annual crossover rival in ACC play, as an opportunity to sort out its depth for the long season ahead and an eventual (likely) postseason run. That says more about Clemson than it does about Georgia Tech, and the fact it got a chance to treat this like a depth-building game against an FCS opponent is going to make it even harder to see them lose later in the year.
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