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Clemson Defense Sets Championship Tone

By BJ Bennett
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Gone, for Clemson, is arguably the premier front four in college football history. The standard, however, is here to stay.

Gone, for Clemson, is arguably the premier front four in college football history. The standard, however, is here to stay. On a top-ranked team with superstar power at quarterback and running back, the Tigers flexed their muscle defensively in a top 15 showdown with SEC visitor Texas A&M. One year after the Aggies topped 500 total yards and scored 26 points in this matchup, Clemson held Texas A&M to just 289 offensive yards, 91 of which came on an inconsequential final drive.

The defending national champions started, Saturday, with defense.   

For the Tigers' recent run of generational playmakers, the program foundation has been unrelenting defensive pressure, the calling card of legendary coordinator Brent Venables. Remarkably, Clemson has led the nation in tackles for loss four of the last six years. Furthermore, it was the Tigers who ranked number one in the country in scoring defense a season ago. Even with the loss of multiple all-time great performers at the line of scrimmage, the expectations have not changed; neither have the results.

Clemson shutdown dynamic Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond, who, as a sophomore, threw for 420 yards against the Tigers last fall. Mond was limited to 24-of-42 passing for 236 yards this time, merely 5.6 yards per attempt, with a meaningless last minute touchdown and a redzone interception. Perhaps most impressively, the Tigers held Mond to just one total rushing yard. One of the best quarterbacks in the game, a talent with notable perimeter options, he was only able to lead the Aggies to three drives of over 27 yards, two of them coming on Texas A&M's final two possessions. 

In a showcase game, Clemson was, once again, dominant in the spotlight.    

While the Tigers held Texas A&M to a very pedestrian 53 rushing yards at 2.3 yards per carry, Clemson's secondary set the tone against the Aggies. Safeties Tanner Muse and K'Von Wallace recorded three tackles and an interception and nine tackles and a sack, respectively. Cornerback A.J. Terrell, with six tackles, a pass deflection and a half-sack, was active in both backfields as well. Texas A&M did not complete a single pass of over 20 yards.

Venables, pressing all the right buttons, has one of the game's elite units once again, a notion which should come as no surprise. Clemson's recruiting, player development and coaching continues to put an almost-unparalleled product on the field. In what many expected to be a a major early test for the Tigers, the defense, especially, passed with flying colors. Those threads, mind you, wave high above Death Valley as championship banners. 

Looking ahead, it's hard to see many challenges for Clemson on paper. With Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Justyn Ross and company, the offense has as much talent as any unit in the country. The Tigers have two Heisman Trophy candidates in the same backfield. Even if some of the names are new, and the names they are replacing are noteworthy, defense, for the Tigers, is still an unwavering program principle.  

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Correspondingly, Clemson remains the number one team in the national polls and an overwhelming favorite to return to the College Football Playoff. Clearly, the defending national champions are here to defend.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports