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Clemson strikes again against SEC opponent

Clemson and quarterback Tajh Boyd picked up right where they left off in a season-opening win over Georgia.

That would be leading the charge against the powerhouse that is the seven-time defending national champion Southeastern Conference - and doing so on the field rather than with talk.

The No. 8 Tigers used five touchdowns from Boyd - three passing, two rushing - to hold off the No. 5 Bulldogs for a 38-35 win on Saturday. It was Clemson's second straight win over a top-10 opponent from the mighty SEC, following up last season's 25-24 win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Saturday's win was a major confidence boost for the Tigers and coach Dabo Swinney, who declared Clemson a national championship contender while chants of ``A-C-C, A-C-C,'' poured down from the Death Valley faithful moments after the win.

Swinney could be onto something, given that the Tigers only have two ranked teams remaining on their schedule -against No. 11 Florida State on Oct. 19 and at rival South Carolina to close out the regular season on Nov. 30.

Despite Clemson's recent run of success, however, it's far from time to write off the SEC.

The conference, led by two-time defending national champion Alabama, was 9-3 against outside competition to open the season.

That included a convincing second half for No. 12 LSU in a 37-27 win over No. 20 TCU, as well as Auburn opening the Gus Malzahn era with a 31-24 win over Washington State and renowned pirate-connoisseur Mike Leach.

Georgia's loss to the Tigers wasn't exactly expected, but it wasn't a complete shock, either. Neither were losses by Mississippi State to No. 13 Oklahoma State or Kentucky to Western Kentucky.

Clemson might have put a chink in the SEC's armor, but college football's best has little cause for concern about an end to its reign after one week.

Five other tidbits you might have missed while suffering from college football overload during the first week:

1. PETRINO'S BACK: Speaking of Western Kentucky, Saturday marked the return to college football for Hilltoppers head coach Bobby Petrino, who was eager to begin the road to redemption following his scandalous exit and unceremonious firing at Arkansas last year. The former Atlanta Falcons coach couldn't have picked a better, or more disliked, opponent to begin with - dating back to his years as the coach at Kentucky-rival Louisville. Western Kentucky was picked to finish fourth in the Sun Belt Conference this season, following last year's 7-6 record, and it opened in quality fashion - using 271 yards passing from quarterback Brandon Doughty to help Petrino improve to 76-26 as a collegiate coach.

2. SLEEPING TIGERS: Petrino is certainly one of the best passing-game coaches in the country, but another school with previous problems airing it out looked quite comfortable in that area on Saturday. LSU, led by 251 yards passing from quarterback Zach Mettenberger, flourished in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's debut as the play caller. The Tigers were somewhat overlooked during the preseason, but keep this in mind: In Mettenberger's final four regular season games last season, he was 81-of-131 passing (62 percent) for an average of 267.5 yards per game. True, he struggled in the bowl loss to Clemson - completing 14 of 23 passes for 120 yards - but Saturday showed the senior could be ready to lead LSU back to the top of the SEC.

3. FAMILIAR FACES: It's with little surprise that No. 1 Alabama leads the country in total defense after the first week. The Crimson Tide held Virginia Tech to 250 yards of offense in a 35-10 win. What's equally as expected is that No. 3 Oregon leads the country in total offense after piling up 772 yards in a 66-3 rout of Nicholls under new coach Mark Helfrich.

4. OKLAHOMA WHEELS: A pair of Oklahoma quarterbacks were among the country's best running the football after the first week. Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh, who entered the win over Mississippi State on the Cowboys' third series, leads all signal-callers in rushing - finishing with 125 yards on the ground. Also, new Sooners starter Trevor Knight struggled early with his passing in a 37-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe, but he finished with 103 yards rushing on 13 carries.

5. RUNNING WILD: With two games remaining in the first week of the college football season, Miami's Duke Johnson leads the nation in rushing after a 19-carry, 186-yard game. ... Arkansas State, in its first season under new coach and former Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, led the way in the first week with a 509-yard rushing outburst. ... Four Red Wolves, including former Tennessee running back David Oku, rushed for more than 100 yards in Arkansas State's 62-11 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. ... Arkansas running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins became the first running back tandem at the school to finish with more than 100 yards in the same game since former standouts Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in 2007. Williams had 151 yards on 18 carries, while Collins had 131 yards on 21 carries and helped new coach Bret Bielema off to a 34-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in his debut with the Razorbacks.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2016
The Associated Press
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