Virginia Tech drops third straight to Clemson

vtclemson.png

Virginia Tech drops third straight to Clemson

 CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- Tajh Boyd ran for two touchdowns and passed for another and Jonathan Meeks had a 74-yard interception return score as No. 14 Clemson won its third straight over Virginia Tech, 38-17, on Saturday.

Andre Ellington had a 12-yard touchdown run and 96 yards for the Tigers (6-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who relied on their much-maligned defense to bail them out of this one.

Clemson finished with three interceptions and twice stopped fourth downs to end drives by the Hokies (4-4, 2-2). Logan Thomas passed for 207 yards and ran for 99, accounting for two Virginia Tech touchdowns. He was continually harassed by the Tigers and threw two picks.

Boyd was 12 of 21 for 160 yards, 131 fewer than he averaged coming in.

Clemson tied a school record with its 11th straight home victory, something it had done twice before from 1937-42 and 1989-91. To match the mark this time, the Tigers had to count on their usually unreliable defense as their high-flying offense was largely grounded.

The Hokies put up 406 yards, but that's still under the 445 a game Clemson had been allowing. Tigers defenders turned the tide early, halting Michael Holmes on third and fourth downs in the opening quarter to end the Hokies' 15-play drive on Clemson's 18.

Instead of trailing 14-0, Clemson began its comeback with Chandler Catanzaro's 27-yard field goal -- his 20th straight made kick since last season.

Meeks got the first of his two interceptions on Virginia Tech's next series, grabbing Thomas' sailing pass right before going out of bounds. The Hokies gave Clemson even more help on the drive, a short punt bouncing off a Virginia Tech player that Tony Steward recovered as the Tigers kept the ball. Boyd put them ahead for good moments later with a leaping, 1-yard TD.

Two series later, Meeks was at it again, this time, swiping Thomas' pass in the open field and running 74 yards for the score.

Clemson's attack finally got going after halftime. Ellington's touchdown run ended a 52-yard drive before Boyd hit DeAndre Hopkins with a 37-yard scoring pass the next time Clemson had the ball to go up 31-10.

Clemson ended with 295 yards on offense, its lowest output this season. Boyd was sacked five times after Clemson had allowed 10 its first six games. All-American receiver Sammy Watkins had eight catches for 84 yards.

Virginia Tech had entered this one stung by last year's failures against the Tigers. After dominating Clemson for more than decade, the Hokies were overrun in two games last year, including a 38-10 loss in the ACC title game.

So Virginia Tech came out fast on both sides of the ball.

The Hokies sacked Boyd twice to force a punt, then Thomas led a no-huddle attack that caught the Tigers' D napping. The 6-foot-6 quarterback converted a fourth-and-2, and then found Corey Fuller open in the middle of the field for a 29 yard touchdown.

Michael Cole got perhaps the easiest interception of his career -- a tipped pass fell into his hands as he lie on his back on the ground -- on Clemson's next sequence and Thomas had the Hokies on the move again until they were stopped on downs by the Tigers.

The Hokies got a 40-yard field goal by Cody Journall right before halftime to trail 17-10 at the break. Virginia Tech gave up just 137 yards to Clemson's potent offense in the first two quarters -- the Tigers came in second in the ACC at more than 525 yards of offense a game -- but struggled to get past the Hokies' D.

Clemson celebrated Military Appreciation Day and had walk-on receiver Daniel Rodriguez, U.S. Army veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, lead the team's charge down the hill into the stadium carrying the American flag to loud cheers. Rodriguez was also an honorary captain against Virginia Tech, the team he grew up following.  

College Football Playoff projections: Let's not overthink this

usatsi_9281757.jpg

College Football Playoff projections: Let's not overthink this

Did Penn State play their way into the playoff? Michigan has to be in, right? Did Ohio State fall out of top four? Will Washington hang on?

Following all the action on Saturday, there was plenty of debate over who the top four teams should be. Most of the questions surround what to do with the three Big Ten teams contenders.

Ohio State and Michigan are clearly two of the best teams in the country, but neither of them won their division. That honor went to Penn State who also won the conference championship on Saturday, the same Penn State team who beat Ohio State but who also lost twice this season.

For the first time since the College Football Playoff started, there is a real, genuine debate over who the top four will be.

But not really.

SEE THE FINAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF PROJECTION HERE

If you're just asking who the committee will put into the playoff, the committee actually tipped its hand last week with its rankings:

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Clemson
  4. Washington
  5. Michigan
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Penn State

For everyone saying Michigan should be in the top four, well, they weren't in the top four last week, they didn't play this week, none of the four teams ahead of them did anything to hurt their respective resumes, so what makes anyone out there think the Wolverines are suddenly going to vault into the top four? It's not going to happen.

If Penn State were to make the playoff, it wouldn't be over Washington or Clemson who were already ranked ahead of the Nittany Lions and also won their respective conferences on Saturday. Neither team did anything to hurt themselves, so Penn State won't vault over them. Could they jump Ohio State who they beat head-to-head? That seems doubtful considering the committee declared the Buckeyes the second-best team in the country on Tuesday. That tells me the committee sees them as "unequivocally" one the top teams.

So debate away. When it comes to college football, that's what makes it so fun. But really, there's not that much to debate about. The committee showed last week who they thought the four best teams were and there's no reason to think that will change based on what we saw Saturday.

Find out who will make this year's playoff here with the final College Football Playoff projections.

Hokies can't contain Deshaun Watson in ACC Championship game loss

usatsi_9721943.jpg
USA Today Sports

Hokies can't contain Deshaun Watson in ACC Championship game loss

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Deshaun Watson bolstered his Heisman Trophy candidacy by passing for three touchdowns and running for two more to lead third-ranked Clemson to a 42-35 victory over No. 19 Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game Saturday night.

Winning consecutive league titles for the first time in 28 years likely will send the Tigers (12-1, No. 3 CFP) back to the four-team College Football Playoff for the second straight year, providing Watson with an opportunity to resolve unfinished business from last January, when his team lost to Alabama in the national championship game.

The Clemson star completed 23 of 34 passes for 288 yards, including TDs of 21 and 10 yards to Jordan Leggett and 15 yards to Hunter Renfrow for a 42-28 lead midway through the fourth quarter. He also rushed for 85 yards on 17 attempts for the Tigers. They've won back-to-back ACC titles for the first time since winning three straight from 1986-88.

Watson's Virginia Tech counterpart, Jerod Evans, was just as impressive. The 6-foot-3, 238-pound ran for two touchdowns and rallied the Hokies from a 21-point deficit to make it close at the end.

The Hokies (9-4, No. 23 CFP) scored on three straight possessions, trimming what was once a 35-14 deficit to seven points on Evans' 5-yard run early in the fourth quarter and Cam Phillips' 26-yard TD reception with just under 6 minutes remaining.

Virginia Tech got the ball back with a chance to force overtime. Evans drove his team to the Clemson 23, where the drive stalled when Tigers cornerback Cordrea Tankersley intercepted a pass on fourth-and-6.