The good, the bad and the ugly

The good…

Dabo Swinney sets the record for most consecutive home at 12.

It may not have been Clemson's crispest performance of the season, but it's another easy win over an ACC foe, and the Tigers remain on track for another double-digit win season and possibly a BCS at large birth. There is still work to be done, as the competition level amps up with NC State and South Carolina visiting Death Valley the next two weeks, but those games are certainly winnable contests. A second consecutive ACC title is probably out the window as this same hapless Maryland team would have to beat Florida State next week for Clemson's chains at repeat to remain open, but regardless of who takes home the conference hardware, it's obvious Clemson is right there with Florida State atop the league and well above all the other teams except the likely champion Seminoles.

Outside of a cornerback Darius Robinson's broken ankle, Clemson has been relatively injury free this season and remained so through this week's win over Maryland. Sammy Watkins bruised an ankle on the game's opening kickoff, but still played and caught four balls. In addition, Andre Ellington showed no signs he was slowed down by a tweaked hamstring sustained at Duke last week.The lack of quality opponents over the last four games has allowed Clemson to play most of their personnel, limiting snaps of their better players to mostly first half action. That means less chance of injury, and some much needed experience for the reserves.

Clemson is all the way up to 6th nationally in scoring offense averaging 42.9 points per game. And let's face it, this number could even be higher if the Tigers chose to keep their foot on the gas in some of these blowout games. Believe it or not, Clemson's low water mark for points on the season is 26 against 2-8 Auburn. In the remaining nine games, they bottom out with 37 against Florida State, who just happens to rank 4th nationally allowing 13 points per game. In Clemson's other eight games, they've scored between 38 and 56 points, making many of those scoring drives look easy.

Speaking of national rankings, Clemson's defense also continues to climb the ladder. In total defense, Clemson is up to 57th, and in scoring the Tigers sit at 33rd. Sure the competition has been lousy at times this season, but considering Clemson's defense finished 2011 81st and 71st in these rankings, I'd say progress has been made under Brent Venables. Against Maryland the Tiger defense yielded only 180 total yards of offense, and Maryland was a paltry 1 of 13 on 3rd down attempts. Maryland suffered ofcourse from playing without their Mr. Everything receiver Stafon Diggs and having to use their 5th string quarterback, but Clemson's defense did what they should have done under these circumstances, and basically stifled the Terps' meager offense.

[I]The bad…[/I]

I've been saying this for awhile now, but what's going on with Clemson's punt return unit? Adam Humphries appears to be the guy on the receiving end now, and that's fine because he usually has pretty sure hands and isn't afraid to catch the ball and return it. That said, Humphries did muff a punt in yesterday's game, and maybe took a couple of other chances trying to return balls with defenders right in his face.

The more troubling aspect of the punt return scheme is Clemson isn't generating any pressure, allowing the punter to take his time kicking the ball and the giving the gunners plenty of time to get right in the face of Clemson's return man. Basically, Clemson isn't a threat to block a punt, and without some great play by the return man, isn't a threat to break one for a long gain either.

[I]The ugly…[/I]

Nuk Hopkins continued his torrid pace against Maryland.

In one respect it's easy to understand Clemson being a little sloppy, as the Tiger's haven't been in a close game since playing Georgia Tech on October 6th. Virginia Tech mounted some resistance for a half the following week, but since then Clemson has outscored Wake Forest, Duke and Maryland by a combined score of 143-43, and that margin could have been a lot higher had Clemson not subbed in reserves early in those games. In a nutshell, the game has become very easy for Clemson of late, making it tough to stay sharp.

All that said, Clemson has been too sloppy with the ball in recent games, allowing Duke's defenders to basically rip off an interception and a fumble from Clemson's grasp. In this week's game with Maryland, Tajh Boyd was careless with two fumbles in the first half, and Clemson also muffed a punt. These issues haven't amounted to much because the competition level has been so low, but against better teams these mistakes will be back break

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