Tigers must solve recent road woes

Clemson's 35-30 victory over No. 11 Florida State on Sept. 24 may have been the Tigers' Atlantic Coast Conference opener, but it put them squarely in the driver's seat in the Atlantic Division.

Clemson's remaining four opponents in the division -- Boston College, Maryland, Wake Forest and N.C. State -- have been underwhelming this season, giving the Tigers early reason to believe they're capable of earning a spot in the ACC Championship Game for the second time in three years.

But first up for Clemson, which moved up eight spots to No. 13 in the latest Associated Press poll, is its first road game of the season at No. 11 Virginia Tech (4-0). Although it's not a division game, the Tigers would like nothing more than to emerge from Blacksburg, Va., with a win and improve to 5-0 for the first time since 2000.

"We're supposed to be 4-0," coach Dabo Swinney said. "We have to win at home, and that's what we've done. Now we want to be a much better road team than we were last year."

Clemson went 1-4 on the road in 2010, losing those four games by a combined 17 points. Those close defeats are being forgotten in the wake of the Tigers' impressive start, but Swinney says his squad is capable of bigger and better things.

"We're going to find out stuff about our team," Swinney said. "September doesn't make a season. We're still trying to play our best game. But there's no question that Virginia Tech is going to be a hard place to play."

If the Tigers, who have lost in their last two trips to Virginia Tech, can manage a victory, it would mark the first time in school history that Clemson, or any other ACC school for that matter, has beaten Top 20 opponents in three consecutive weeks.

Facing the Hokies, however, will be far from easy.

Clemson has lost each of its last five trips to Lane Stadium, including the one and only matchup in Blacksburg back in 2006.

"It's another big challenge for us, with our schedule," Swinney said. "Now, we've got to go on the road and play. We've yet to go on the road. I'm anxious to see how we do in a very tough, hostile environment."

Freshman receiver Sammy Watkins caught two touchdown passes against Florida State, giving him six this season -- a single-season record for touchdown catches by a freshman. (Roy Philpott)
MONDAY NOTES: Clemson held Florida State to just 29 yards rushing -- the fewest the Tigers have allowed an opponent since limiting Boston College to 29 in 2009. It also was the fewest rushing yards that the Seminoles have had against Clemson since 2003, when the Tigers held them to just 11 yards on the ground.

* The Tigers have had at least 400 yards of total offense in all four games this season. It's the first time since 2009 that Clemson has recorded at least 400 yards of offense in four consecutive games.

* Freshman receiver Sammy Watkins caught two touchdown passes against Florida State, giving him six this season -- a single-season record for touchdown catches by a freshman. With 141 receiving yards against the Seminoles, he joined former Clemson All-American Rod Gardner as the only players in school history with consecutive games of at least 140 yards receiving.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Martavis Bryant -- Bryant, one of many talented freshman receivers, hasn't made many catches this season, but he's certainly made them count. His three receptions have totaled 129 yards -- an average of 43 yards per grab. At 6-foot-4 and possessing a long but quick stride, he presents matchup problems for most defensive backs, and has shown a knack for getting open for deep balls and finishing when he gets the opportunity. Expect quarterback Tajh Boyd to continue to look his way.

LOOKING GOOD: Clemson's passing game, which was a liability at times last season with inconsistent quarterback play and a thin receiving corps, has done an abrupt about-face this season. Sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd is maturing at a rapid pace and has thrown at least three touchdown passes in all four games this season -- the first Clemson player ever to do that. His job has been made easier by the play of a receiving corps that is suddenly bursting at the seams with young talent, including Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Charone Peake and Adam Humphries.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Clemson's secondary play continues to be shaky at best and the unit is often being victimized by big passing plays. Although the Tigers have several veterans patrolling the secondary, most are in their first full season as starters, and their lack of big-game experience continues to be evident from time to time. Clemson allowed Florida State freshman Clint Trickett to have a 336-yard, three-touchdown day in his first career start, including long touchdowns of 57 and 30 yards.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's something different here at Clemson this year. I know everyone feels it. I don't know what it is -- it's just something different. I just know if we keep doing our job, the outcome is going to be a 'W'. -- Clemson defensive tackle Rennie Moore on the Tigers' 4-0 start.

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