The road to a national championship might very well run through No. 1 Clemson, which looked pretty dominant in a 37-13 win over Wake Forest on Saturday.
But that's not the only race for a huge postseason honor that will be decided by Tigers. It was clear in Week 1 that Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne will have a huge say in who wins the Heisman Trophy.
The Clemson quarterback and running back, respectively, got off to solid starts in the award that goes to college football's best player. They both looked the part as Lawrence threw for 350 yards and completed 78.6 percent of his pass attempts.
The preseason favorite to take home the Heisman rushed for two touchdowns and threw one to tight end J.C. Chalk. Most importantly, Lawrence didn't throw an interception.
Last season, there were two picks against Georgia Tech in the opener that brought out the critics. Lawrence was scrutinized each and every week and dinged, rightfully so, in the Heisman race for eight interceptions in Clemson's first seven games. Despite not throwing another all season and tossing three or more touchdowns in eight consecutive games late in the year, his hopes to be the first Tiger in program history to win the game's most illustrious award were dashed in the first half of the season.
Fast forward to now, and if Week 1 is an indicator, Lawrence will continue to be the massive favorite. Not only were the numbers nearly flawless, so was the execution.
The future first-round NFL draft pick kept it simple. He made excellent reads before the snap and then took what was there without forcing throws that got him those early-season miscues a year ago.
"This whole offseason, that's been one of my goals, just take what the defense is giving me," said Lawrence, who had a long pass of 42 yards. "Don't overcomplicate it. Don't try to do too much. I've just learned just trust it, go through my progressions, have a really good presnap read, see where everyone's at and post-snap recognition."
Lawrence complemented the Demon Deacons on their scheme as they used rotations at safety and cornerback to try and confuse him. They also brought blitzes and used All-American pass-rusher Carlos Basham Jr. to try to get him off his game early.
"They did a good job mixing it up I just felt like we were really locked into the details tonight and I think we executed our plan really well," Lawrence said. "That's been my whole thing is just take what the defense gives me, don't press, and then eventually the big plays will come. That's what I've been working on for sure."
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Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said no one is interested in hearing any excuses regarding the lack of production on offense, and that despite all of the injuries, he is convinced the Tigers still have the players to turn the corner.
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Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott both said Lawrence was to blame for one of the early sacks, and the only other knock Elliott could find was one bad throw to Frank Ladson.
"(Lawrence) had the eye of the tiger," Elliott said. "He made great decisions in the run game, pulling the ball down there on the goal line to give us an opportunity to score there so definitely he's got a different level. Just got to challenge him to continue to maintain that focus for the rest of the season."
As for Etienne, he set a new school record and rushed for over 100 yards for the third consecutive time against Wake Forest. His 102 yards, 6.0 yards per carry and one touchdown, to go along with three catches for 47 yards, came against a Wake defense that keyed in on him from the very beginning.
"I definitely had to ease into the game. I had to knock some rust off," Etienne said. "It's different in a game than it is in practice. It's just different. You come out here on game day with a different mentality. You've got to get that first lick to get acclimated and then after that you're ready to go."
As impressive as nearly 150 yards of total offense is, Etienne will have better performances than this throughout the season. In fact, it wouldn't surprise anyone if this is one of his lowest productions once it's all said and done.
With a long run of 29 yards, Etienne didn't reel off those massive chunk yards, but the explosiveness is still there. He's going to get revved up in a hurry, and his profile will keep him in the Heisman race all season.
Like with Lawrence, the question is whether he'll get enough touches to appease the Heisman voters, but there's no question that he's one of the best college football players on the planet.
Saturday offered both players a chance to make an early statement, and they did in a season without the Big Ten and Pac-12 players. In a week without the SEC and Big 12 schools playing nonconference games that most people will forget about, it was the perfect time for Lawrence and Etienne to shine.
Neither disappointed, and there are likely to be even better performances down the road.
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