Things get back to normal for No. 3 Clemson on Saturday.
The Tigers are once again playing in a big game, and that’s just the way they want it. Clemson will host No. 15 NC State in a key ACC Atlantic Division showdown at Death Valley (3:30 p.m.) with control of the division at stake.
Just talking about football has been a sigh of relief for the Tigers (6-0, 3-0 ACC) who spent the two weeks leading up to last week’s open date talking about anything and everything but football.
First there was the news of the change at starting quarterback on Sept. 24, as head coach Dabo Swinney named freshman Trevor Lawrence the starter for the Syracuse game over senior Kelly Bryant. That’s all anyone wanted to talk about until Kelly announced two days later he was leaving the team and was going to transfer out of the program.
Just when the Tigers felt as if they were finally moving on from all the quarterback drama, Lawrence was injured in the Syracuse game and backup Chase Brice came in and led them from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to win the game.
Lawrence, who ended up with a neck strain, reported to practice the following Monday and things finally appeared normal when the team got word on Oct. 3 that former Clemson running back C.J. Fuller, who was just 22 years old, suddenly passed away.
“You don’t even realize it yourself until you get a week off and you are like, ‘Whew!’ A lot has happened in this past month,” Lawrence said. “It was good to be able to relax and have the weekend off.”
The weekend off allowed the Tigers to not only recharge their batteries, but to get refocused on what lies ahead. Despite all that happened, Clemson still finds itself in perfect position to win the ACC and make the College Football Playoff for a fourth straight year.
“We definitely needed (the break),” wide receiver Amari Rodgers said. “We have been going at it since August, so we needed a weekend to unplug, get away from football a little bit. But, I feel like we are ready to go. We are ready to get back to it.”
Clemson will get back at with an NC State team that comes into Death Valley undefeated and ready to dethrone the Tigers from the top of the ACC. The Wolfpack (5-0, 2-0 ACC) are also undefeated and are still smarting from the previous two seasons when they let Clemson off the hook in games where they felt they had the Tigers beaten.
“It is definitely challenging just playing NC State,” Lawrence said. “They are a really good team. They are undefeated, too. It should be a fun game.”
Lawrence says Saturday represents a new start for the Tigers and an opportunity to see how far they have come as a team.
“This is a big game for us to kind of improve and see how much we have grown throughout the season and how much better we have gotten,” he said. “Playing a good team, I just feel like it is a chance for us to prove ourselves a little bit more.”