DISCLAIMER: I haven't read French's analysis yet. Surely it is more profound than what follows.
Hours before kickoff in Charlotte, I tweeted the following after the commentary in the SEC Championship game piqued my interest. Gary Danielson was describing the change in defensive philosopy going on at UGA:
Funny how things worked out, right? Clemson won in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Even if Thomas was more crisp in his decision making, not once did he have a hole the size of the one above for his benefit. Clemson's front seven played with their ears pinned back all game. They played with confidence that we (by 'we' I mean the fanbase, not the players. Tech's players played their asses off last night) were not expecting. The Tiger defense forced a turnover on Tech's first drive, and didn't look back. The reason why Coles was able to burn them for the long touchdown was a product of Clemson's aggressiveness; they dared Thomas with man-to-man coverage. Luckily for us, Coles made an outstanding individual effort to shake off the tackle and out-run the rest of the defense for a score.
Like earlier in the year, our offensive line seemed to be overwhelmed by the pressure and stunts that Clemson threw at us. Defensively, after Jayron got hurt, Tech rarely was in a poistion to pressure Tajh Boyd. Clemson was able to spring Ellington to the second level with little effort by mid-way through the third quarter, and with the Tigers already holding a 14 point lead, the conclusion was all but foregone. Tech's smaller defense line proved unable to dictate terms at the line of scrimmage.
Don't misunderstand me. Tech did not lose because of it's front seven. They played with heart all game. The whole team did. I'm not going to blame the referees either. Yeah, I thought there were some bullshit calls (Boykin's pass interference, roughing the punter, helmet-to-helmet, etc), but referees are not the reason the Clemson defensive line was able to get constant penetration into Tech's backfield. Or the reason why Tech receivers could not hold on to the ball. I do think the play-calling was extremely suspect. Where were the wide receiver screens? That was a majority of our passing game against Georgia Tech, yet I don't remember seeing any quick outs to the WRs last night, only slow-developing running back screens that got blown up on a regular basis.
At the end of the night, Clemson proved - for a second time this season - that they were the better team. Simple as that. Kudos to them, and I hope they play the cousins with the same intensity they showed in the ACC Championship Game.