No. 3 Clemson made some history and punched its ticket to the College Football Playoff on Saturday night in a 62-17 win against No. 23 Virginia, winning the outright ACC championship for a record fifth-straight season. The Tigers also made FBS history by becoming the first team to win five straight conference title games.
"I don't know what else can be said, but I can just tell you this is an incredibly special group of young people. This has been so much fun to do something that's never been done," Dabo Swinney said after the game, in reference to the record. "It's hard to do, and you know, obviously nobody has won five conference titles -- I played in the first-ever championship game in '92 -- and nobody has won five in a row until now."
The Tigers current run in the ACC is unprecedented in the two-division era (since 2005) as the program now has more ACC Championship Game appearances (seven) and wins (six) than anyone else in the conference. Not since Bobby Bowden's Florida State teams won at least a share of the ACC title every year from 1992 to 2000 have we seen such lopsided league dominance, and Swinney's program is certainly worth mentioning alongside that run of Seminoles greatness given what we've seen in the College Football Playoff era.
Clemson was up 31-7 at halftime and never looked back in this game, rolling up 619 yards of offense and showcasing what a complete team in championship phase should look like when it comes time for the selection committee's final review. No coaching staff in the country is better prepared for the 15-game schedule of the playoff era, and while critics found reasons to downgrade Clemson early in the season, there's not a flaw to be found as we enter the time for real championship contention.
Clemson will find out its destination and opponent for the College Football Playoff around 12:30 p.m. ET, while Virginia's bowl future will be announced later in the afternoon.
Here are three things to know about the game.
1. M-V-Tee: Not only did Clemson make history as the first program in FBS history win five straight conference championship games, but wide receiver Tee Higgins made some history of his own in the win. Higgins set the ACC Championship Game record for receiving yards with 182 and had three touchdowns in a performance that earned him MVP honors in the game.
2. This is a building block for Virginia: Getting to this game was an accomplishment for celebrating, and coach Bronco Mendenhall will be able to point to Clemson as the goal to motivate a group that just won its first-ever ACC Coastal title. The Wahoos entered the game banged up thanks to extraordinary performances from senior quarterback Bryce Perkins to close out the season. This loss is disappointing, but consolation comes in the form of a potential trip to the Orange Bowl as the ACC's representative in the New Year's Six outside of the playoff.
3. The Travis Etienne appreciation corner: So much attention gets paid to Trevor Lawrence that I think fans outside of South Carolina might not be aware that the most impactful offensive player across the last couple of years has been two-time ACC Offensive Player of the Year Travis Etienne. Saturday night was another light work, high yardage night for Etienne, totaling 114 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries as he extended his hold on the ACC records for career rushing and total touchdowns.