Michael Hamlin. There cannot be many players who look bad in a 54-0 win. So the safety is the sentimental pick, winning bragging rights in Clemson’s first game pitting brothers since 1981.
Kavell Conner. Despite a 70-pound disadvantage, the linebacker laid a big hit on S.C. State center Raymond Harrison during Crezdon Butler’s interception return, exemplifying the physicality coaches have sought.
Tyler Grisham. Edges fellow wide receiver Xavier Dye as perhaps the most important blocker in the offense lately ... the one charged with taking out the lead cornerback on the team’s screen passes.
What went right
In light of internal criticism for how soft it had been playing, the defense accounted for most of its apparent vulnerabilities, improving its third-down stoppage rate (only 3 of 13 converted) while holding speedy runner Will Ford to 14 yards on nine carries. The offensive line produced rare daylight for back James Davis, whose three touchdowns moved him within eight of the school career record.
What went wrong
Despite the personnel advantage, Clemson showed no sign of figuring out how to attack (via the pass) the “robber” coverage used by ACC nemesis Virginia Tech. Pass protection remains an issue.
The win matched Clemson’s 24th-largest margin of victory and tied the second-largest victory of Tommy Bowden’s tenure. The Tigers beat Central Michigan by 56 last season.
The availability of starting left guard David Smith (sprained ankle) and second-string middle linebacker Stanley Hunter (sprained ankle) will be updated today. Smith’s injury will likely force backup left tackle Jamarcus Grant to shift back inside to guard, Bowden said. It also remains to be seen whether starting left tackle Chris Hairston (bruised knee) will be ready to return.
Junior receiver Jacoby Ford has a season-high number of catches (18). He had 17 in eight games last season and 15 as a freshman. ... In four games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents the past two seasons, S.C. State has scored six points off a pair of field goals.
Coaches have rejected any hint of a quarterback controversy, but support for fan-favorite Willy Korn will only intensify unless Cullen Harper breaks out of his funk with a couple of significant downfield strikes soon.
The Tigers (3-1, 1-0 ACC) return to conference action against Maryland (3-1, 0-0), which recovered from a listless opening two games to post 86 points against then-No. 23 California and Eastern Michigan.
— Paul Strelow