GRADES: FSU down, Tech looms

CLEMSON - There were big plays for both teams, but after four exhausting quarters, Clemson proved it belongs at the top of the ACC's Atlantic Division ... for now.

OFFENSE: B+
Once again Clemson's offense came to play, steamrolling its way to 455 yards against the nation's fifth-ranked defense. Tajh Boyd, minus the inexcusable interception that changed the complexion of the game, was brilliant. Throwing for 344 yards and three touchdowns, he once again demonstrated a deep understanding of Chad Morris' offense- showing beautiful touch on the deep ball and creating short gains on the ground when nothing was there. The offensive line remains a work in progress- especially in short-yardage situations. Sammy Watkins again proved he is one of the best receivers in the country, this time bringing in eight passes for 141 yards and two more touchdowns. Dwayne Allen and Nuke Hopkins have proven to be reliable second options and even Martavis Bryant got into the act with a long reception. Andre Ellington was obviously not at a 100 percent and given the fact D.J. Howard didn't see the field - there should be some concern at running back headed into next week's game at Virginia Tech. The costly pick-six and Clemson's short-yardage struggles prevent the "A" grade, but when you look at the fact Clemson ran 86 plays to FSU's 53, it's hard to go much lower.

DEFENSE: D+
Two weeks ago it was missed tackles. Saturday it was the deep ball. Florida State's offense basically consisted of one play Saturday afternoon - throw it long. And it worked. Credit Clint Trickett for several perfectly thrown passes, but Clemson's secondary struggled mightily in this one. A couple of pass interference penalties were difficult to swallow, but the fact so many back breaking plays seem to come on third and long were even worse. Still, Clemson's defense held at the game's most critical point as Rennie Moore brought down Trickett for a sack on fourth down. Clemson's front four played better, too, even if the stats didn't show it. However, more fundamentally sound play in the secondary, and more consistent pressure up front will be needed next week if Clemson is to steal a win on the road.


Sammy Watkins is quickly establishing himself as one of the top wide receivers in the nation. (Getty Images)
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Chandler Catanazaro missed a 32-yard field goal in the first half, which proved costly later on. But Clemson held Florida State's explosive return teams in check, and even Spencer Benton held his own as a punter after Dawson Zimmerman left with a knee injury. Benton also had a couple of touchbacks as well. Not a great performance, and certainly Catanzaro will be need to be more consistent from short-range, but overall special teams weren't half-bad given the circumstances and the opposition.

COACHING: B+
For the first time in four games, the Tigers came out roaring. Clemson quickly built a 14-3 lead in the first quarter, ending three games of painfully slow starts. Chad Morris has made all the difference in the world with this Clemson offense (so has Sammy Watkins) and continues to press the right buttons in the development of his quarterback. Kevin Steele continues to make halftime adjustments that pay off for his team, but clearly that unit is more of a work in progress having lost five players from last year's squad to the NFL. And Dabo keeps 'em fired up. All in all, it equaled a win over the 11th-ranked team in the country. Not a bad trio there.

OVERALL: A
We can say it now after the fact: Clemson owns Florida State in Death Valley after winning its fifth straight game in the friendly confines. The Tigers have also won five of the last seven in the highly-contested series, too. But even so, the pressure remains on Clemson the rest of the ACC schedule as the Seminoles will likely be favored in every game from here on out. The good news is this team hasn't come close to playing its best game. The bad news is these first four wins have all come at home and No. 13 Virginia Tech looms next weekend in Blacksburg. Lane Stadium has been a house of horrors for Clemson in recent years, but there are indications this could be a different team. Right? We won't truly know until next week, but one thing we do know is even though this team is a work in progress, it's 4-0 and set to climb into the top 15 of both major polls after Saturday's win. Not bad for a team that won just six games last year, eh? Bring on the Hokies. After all, this isn't 2006.

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