Tigers quiet Syracuse

Saturday's game was never in doubt, even if a week's worth of trash talk leading up to the game seemed to indicate otherwise.

At some point, the doubts cease.

"Clemson should be worried about playing in a hot, stuffy Carrier Dome."

"Clemson should be worried about playing in Syracuse's first ACC game."

"Clemson is in danger of a letdown."

At some point, it doesn't matter anymore.

I'm not sure how many out manned opponents Dabo Swinney's bunch has to blow out completely shake any doubts about its reputation as an underperformer, but Clemson 49, Syracuse 14 should be Exhibit A that the Tigers' consistency is real, and it is spectacular.

No. 3 Clemson improved to 5-0 by showing Syracuse how far it must climb to be considered one of the ACC Atlantic Division's elite teams.

It was far from the Tigers' best game of the year – with two minutes left in the third quarter, Clemson had two yards of total offense for the quarter – but it was dominant regardless. Clemson rolled up 626 yards of total offense, used four quarterbacks and thoroughly outclassed the Orange. 38 seconds into the game, Clemson set the tone. Adam Humphries executed an excellent double move, and a safety bit down. Adam Humphries was wide open on the right seam for the easiest 60-yard touchdown you'll ever see.

By the end of the first quarter, Clemson led 21-0, and Syracuse's sideline was strangely subdued.

Humphries entered the game with 118 receiving yards on the season. He had 120 and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone.

Earlier this week, Syracuse tailback Jerome Smith tweeted that "I'ma take my No. 10 in orange over theirs."

That "No. 10" was sophomore quarterback Terrel Hunt, making his first ACC start and second career start.

Hunt told Syracuse reporters that "I want to out-shine him. I want to show people that I can compete with the best."

Not even close. Hunt finished 8-of-24 with 52 yards passing, no touchdowns and three interceptions.

Boyd threw his first interception in 188 passes, ending his own Clemson-record streak for most attempts without an interception, and added another on a pass tipped by Stanton Seckinger.

Regardless, he had an incredible overall day, completing 20 of 27 passes for a Clemson single-game record 455 yards (breaking his own record set against Wake Forest) and five touchdowns (tying his own Clemson single-game record).

Four of those touchdowns went for 40-plus yards. Saturday, a program once known for its inexplicable road meltdowns reached the other end of the spectrum entirely.

Up 35-7 with under a minute to play and the ball inside the Syracuse 10, Swinney opted to go for a touchdown rather than kick a field goal for sure points.

Syracuse held, and coach Scott Shafer appeared to direct some salty, NSFW language at Swinney across the field, although the two enjoyed a cordial handshake afterward.

Still, it showed how far Clemson has come under Swinney. The Tigers have gone from sweating the road to going for BCS style points at the end of the first half in a loud, pumped-up environment. Were there reasons to be concerned, reasons for Swinney, Chad Morris and Brent Venables to grind even harder this week? Sure.

Smith's 66-yard touchdown run came on a clear breakdown in the Clemson secondary and linebacker corps.

And in the first 14:20 of the third quarter, Clemson had as many yards (two) as Boyd interceptions.

But even when they weren't at their best, these Tigers were pretty darn good. Backed up at his own 9, Boyd uncorked for Sammy Watkins – who missed portions of the game with a minor hip injury – and connected for a 91-yard touchdown pass, the second-longest play from scrimmage in program history.

By then, it was past time to get Boyd (nursing a thumb injury), Watkins and the rest of the front-liners out of the game.

Even flawed, Clemson turned the Orange into pulp and made it look easy.

It was a perfect business trip, which is becoming commonplace. Since losing 37-13 at N.C. State in November 2011, Clemson has 13 consecutive wins of at least 10 points against unranked opponents. That's the second-longest streak in the nation. No.1? Well, No.1: Alabama, which has accomplished that feat in 22 consecutive games.

Swinney's veteran bunch has shown the ability to remain composed and on-point no matter the opponent. Has 2013 been perfect? No. But no matter what, these Tigers never seem to get rattled.

Although an outmanned Boston College team is next, it's perfectly understandable if Clemson fans look past the Eagles and towards Oct. 19's monstrous showdown with Florida State, which will enter Death Valley unbeaten and with a likely top-8 ranking.

ESPN's College GameDay is likely to make its second visit of the season, and the hype will be off-the-charts.

Inside the WestZone this week, however, it'll just be business as usual. We might even hear of the "nameless, faceless opponent" that never seems to show up when the spotlight is brightest. Florida State is next week. An even keel will be all that matters this week.

Given its recent track record, Clemson has given its fans no reason to worry otherwise.

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