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Clemson Has Best ACC Championship Game Yet

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Leaving no doubt, Clemson has now won the last four ACC Championship Games by a combined score of 176-40.

Clemson did more than just avenge its earlier loss to Notre Dame with an ACC Championship Game triumph on Saturday evening in Charlotte, the Tigers added to an already-storied status quo. With the win, a sixth straight league crown, Clemson will next advance to the College Football Playoff for a remarkable sixth year in a row. This is a program, 39-2 since the start of the 2018 season, that shapes the national narrative. The Tigers, along the way, just put another exclamation point on another leaguewide statement.

Leaving no doubt, Clemson has now won the last four ACC Championship Games by a combined score of 176-40.

Given that Notre Dame entered the weekend ranked second nationally, undefeated and with a win over the Tigers already on its resume, the expectation was the league's grand finale would, for the first time in a half-decade, be grand. It was a Clemson continuation, instead. The Tigers more than doubled up the Fighting Irish in total yards, 541 to 263, with Notre Dame's only touchdown coming midway through the fourth quarter with the outcome clearly already decided.

After the Fighting Irish opened the game with a field goal, Clemson promptly responded with 34 points straight.

For all of the Tigers' recent successes in Charlotte, their latest effort is the most impressive. Clemson's advantage of 278 total yards is the most in an ACC Championship Game the last seven years. The Tigers averaged over eight yards per pass and eight yards per rush, holding Notre Dame to just 44 yards on the ground on 30 attempts. All of this was done with the pressure squarely on Clemson, against an undefeated team, winners of round one back in South Bend, that was behind only Alabama in the national polls.

Simply put, the Tigers looked the part where they have time and time again.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who did not play in the first meeting between Clemson and Notre Dame due to covid, was absolutely exceptional. He threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 90 more and another score and watched the game's final moments from the sidelines with the Tigers holding a big lead. Lawrence, who has become a dynamic running threat, is now the only player this millennium with at least 320 passing yards and 90 rushing yards in a conference championship game.

If that was, indeed, Lawrence's league farewell, it was a fitting one.

Running back Travis Etienne had a stellar rebound performance against Notre Dame this time around. After only 28 rushing yards in the early November contest, he responded with 124 yards on merely ten carries on Saturday, also adding three receptions. Etienne's 44-yard sprint for a score right before halftime was arguably the play of the game, summing up Clemson's entire showing with a few quick strides. The bright lights came with a vintage Etienne performance.

Etienne's four game ACC Championship Game totals now stand at: 418 rushing yards, 9.95 yards per carry, five touchdowns, four wins.

Defenders James Skalski and Tyler Davis, who both missed the previous meeting, combined for nine total tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.

Clemson's ACC Championship and College Football Playoff streaks now need a second hand to count. Of their league triumphs, this one, for the Tigers, is the most noteworthy. Their win gives Notre Dame its first conference loss ever.

For Clemson, it's even more of more of the same.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com'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: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports