Clemson last played on November 7 in a 40-37 2 OT to Notre Dame. That was 3 weeks ago. Prior to that game the week before they nearly lost to Boston College 32-28.
The Tigers were injured, dealing with COVID to their starting QB Trevor Lawrence, and simply not playing all that well.
For Clemson the ultimate goal of reaching the college football playoff and winning the ACC are still very much in play. To get there Clemson has to get through their best ACC Opponent since the Jimbo Fisher and the Jamies Winston Florida State Seminoles in the #2 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Make no mistake Notre Dame is really good. QB Ian Book is playing the best football of his career, and the Irish defensive line is college football’s best front. They held both future NFL running backs Clemson’s Travis Etienne, and UNC’s Javonte Williams under 100 yards rushing. Just because Clemson is assumed to be healthier, is no guarantee the Tigers will defeat Notre Dame. They needed to play better, and that started with today’s game against Pittsburgh.
In significant spurts, Clemson looked like the team that is trending in the right direction as they look towards the ACCCG. Against Pitt, Clemson raced out to a 31-0 1st quarter lead looking fresh, fast, and dominant. In fairness Pitt was dealing with their own roster issues, but Clemson did what they needed to do against an overmatched team.
Trevor Lawrence threw for over 400 yards, and the Clemson offense rolled up nearly 600 yards of offense. Clemson is starting to develop WR depth beyond Amari Rodgers. Cornell Powell had 176 yards receiving and has been playing well since mid October.
The defense held Pittsburgh offense to under 250 yards, and picked off 4 Kenny Pickett passes. This is what Clemson needed to do in the 52-17 win.
That’s said the next 3 weeks are critical for Clemson. The offensive line must make further strides to handle the Notre Dame front. The Tigers ran for 141 yards, but really didn’t control the line of scrimmage, and Lawrence was pressured and or sacked on a number of plays.
This is a unit that Clemson needs more from.
Otherwise, Clemson got the game they needed today.