CHARLOTTE — It is no slight to Miami and the Hurricanes’ Turnover Chain to note that Clemson’s defense does not have a gimmick to award after turnovers. It does not need one.
After each and every big play Saturday night — this included a fumble recovery and two interceptions, but also just a lot of routine defensive stops — the Tigers just jumped around a little and then headed to the sidelines, where they accepted a few more congratulations. And then waited for their chance to dominate again.
Clemson’s 38-3 victory in the ACC Championship was a thorough and convincing whipping. The Tigers will almost certainly retain their current No. 1 ranking when the College Football Playoff’s selection committee unveils the final bracket. They might be on their way to a successful, uh, defense of their national championship.
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Here are three observations from the Tigers’ victory:
1. Miami wasn’t ready for prime time
The Hurricanes’ unbeaten romp through the first 10 games was fun stuff. Even after that loss to Pittsburgh, they were a good story. Mark Richt has done terrific work in rebuilding the program. But they’re still several steps from elite.
If the loss to Pittsburgh exposed a bunch of flaws we’d seen all season, even as Miami kept winning — well, Clemson exposed the Hurricanes as just a nice team. At halftime, down 21-0, the Hurricanes had 64 yards on 26 plays (a 2.5-yard average), and only three first downs. More telling, with fourth-and-7 from the Clemson 44 with 60 seconds left in the first half, Richt elected to punt from midfield rather than go for it.
We get it, he didn’t want to give Clemson the ball at midfield with a chance for more points. But since they were already trailing by three touchdowns, it felt at least a little bit like a concession that, even then, Richt understood the Canes weren’t going to win.
2. Kelly Bryant isn’t Deshaun Watson, but that’s OK
Bryant, the junior quarterback who had the difficult task of replacing the best player in school history, has been an effective playmaker all season when healthy. Against Miami he completed his first 15 pass attempts, setting an ACC championship game…