GRADES: Some Good, Some Not So Good

CLEMSON - After a sluggish start No. 23 Clemson cruises to a 27-9 win in its 2008 ACC opener over Atlantic Division rival N.C. State. The offense made strides while the injury-riddled defense still has questions headed into next week's game against S.C. State.

After opening the game by throwing an interception which was returned for a touchdown, Cullen Harper would go on to complete 21 of his next 27 passes for over 250 yards and two touchdowns. C.J. Spiller had another strong outing as well, scoring from 28-yards out on a leaping grab and also in a fourth-quarter touchdown on the ground. Up front, Clemson's three redshirt freshmen held their own against a solid front four for N.C. State, paving the way for over 160 yards on the ground. Jacoby Ford was also a big factor in the short passing game and end arounds and continues to show just how badly he was missed at the end of last season. While it wasn't a sexy performance, it was good enough to get the job done and most importantly the line played better and didn't give up a sack all afternoon.

Credit the defense for keeping the Wolfpack out of end zone but don't be fooled- there is plenty of work to be done, especially with the front four and linebackers. Time after time N.C. State running backs were running untouched through the line of scrimmage and QB Russell Wilson had too much time to throw a majority of the afternoon. Sophomore Jarvis Jenkins registered an early first-quarter sack and assisted on another play in the backfield but as it stands now, freshman Da'Quan Bowers is Clemson's main pass rush threat. The Tigers need Ricky Sapp back on a fulltime basis, as well as Rashaad Jackson- as quick as possible. Corners Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor each came away with interceptions as the secondary showed considerable improvement from the previous week against The Citadel.

Mark Buchholz converted on both of his field goal attempts and Jimmy Maners drilled a 60-yard punt in the first half. Tyler Grisham and Byron Maxwell also had nice open field tackles on the kickoff and punt teams respectively. Credit Tommy Bowden for appointing a special teams coordinator in Andre Powell during the offseason as Clemson's special teams continue to be a strength in 2008.

Offensively, the game plan was designed to spread N.C. State across the field to help take pressure off of Clemson's young offensive line and for the most part, it worked. Minus two turnovers from Harper, the Tigers were generally successful in moving the ball on the ground and through the air. It wasn't a dominating performance but N.C. State's defense isn't the worst unit in the league either. Defensively, it's obvious the front seven remains a major work in progress. At this point it seems safe to say no scheme works with the Tigers' inexperience up front but the good news there are two more weeks before the competition gets significantly better.

At the end of the day, the Tigers won their 2008 ACC opener by 18 points against a team that actually plays pretty good defense. Sure, it wasn't a true blowout, but a win is a win. There are still plenty of problems on defense, but getting Ricky Sapp back should help and players like Jarvis Jenkins, Brandon Thompson and of course Da'Quan Bowers should continue to get better. Offensively, the Tigers seem to get too predictable at times but again, breaking in three redshirt freshmen on the offensive line can't be easy either. A low "B" seems appropriate.

You have to be somewhat careful grading officiating, especially running what most people would consider a "fan site," but many questionable calls went against the Tigers Saturday afternoon. From horse-collar penalties to missed calls to just about everything else you can think of. It wasn't pretty. Top Stories