GRADES: Welcome to the ACC

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Perhaps the Orange would have been better off studying film this past week instead of talking trash.

Tajh Boyd threw for a school-record 455 yards and five touchdowns as the outcome of Saturday's game in the Carrier Dome was never in doubt. Clemson's offensive front played with much more consistency than what was seen in recent weeks as Boyd and his wide receivers and tight ends did basically whatever they wanted. The only real complaint was the fact Clemson had just six yards of total offense through the first 14 minutes of the second half before Boyd found Watkins with a 91 yard bomb to seal the deal. Both Sammy Watkins and Adam Humphries went over 100 yards receiving and Zac Brooks and Rod McDowell ran hard when called upon. Chad Morris also showed new wrinkles as well, giving future opponents even more to think about. At the end of the day, it was 49 points and 626 yards of total offense in an easy 35-point win. Strong.

Syracuse had visions of massive running back Jerome Smith running over an undersized Clemson defense with QB Terrell Hunt extending drives with his mobility. Clemson's defense would have none of it. Hunt completed just 8-of-24 pases for a pitiful 52 yards. Furthermore, the Tigers picked off Syracuse quarterbacks four times, limiting the Orange to just two scoring drives, with one of those essentially consisting of Smith's 66-yard TD run. Oh yeah, Vic Beasley continues to make a case for ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and now has eight sacks on the year after a huge performance Saturday against the Orange. It's crystal clear Clemson's defense is making significant strides under second-year coordinator Brent Venables. Beasley, again, looks like an All-ACC peformer, as does his front-four teammate, Grady Jarrett. The safeties still need work, but the rest of this unit is performing at a fairly high level right now.

Chandler Catanzaro would have kicked a 52-yard field goal in the first half were it not for a delay of game penalty. The Tigers also gave up a huge play on 4th-and-9 on a fake punt. Outside of that, special teams were solid. Adam Humphries continues to gain confidence in the return game, Bradley Pinion has done well with his punts and kickoffs (and nearly executed a surprise onside kick to perfection) and Catanzaro is... well, automatic. There are some areas that need addressing, but overall Clemson's special teams continue to be a strength of the team.

Syracuse's Terrell Hunt and Jerome Smith insisted all week they would be up for the challenge of beating the nation's third-ranked team on their home turf, but in reality the Orange didn't come close. Clemson quietly went about its business, strolled into the Carrier Dome and established a 21-0 first quarter lead, essentially ending any upset hopes. The Tigers came out sharp on offense and stifling on defense in the 49-14 romp. Again, this staff proved it can handle success on the road, while putting together a great game plan on both sides of the ball. Pulling a Clemson? Let's ask Syracuse how that feels.

With a huge win over hapless Syracuse now in the books, Clemson looks towards Boston College and Florida State the next two weeks. Obviously, the team must do everything in its power to not look too far ahead as B.C. has shown significant improvement under first-year head coach Steve Addazio. Still, it's hard to ignore the enormous matchup that looms Oct. 19, isn't it? If the Tigers can beat B.C., one of the biggest games in the history of the ACC will greet the nation the following week in Death Valley. But there's work to be done. The Tigers need to get better in the back end of their defense, and the lulls have that have plagued this team at times this season need to be erased. Still, it's hard not to get excited about the direction of the season. Right now, this program looks every bit as good as its national ranking implies. Survive and advance. Top Stories