From the Rivals corner: What's keeping Clemson motivated, USC's surprising start and more

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Each week, we’ll talk to our reporters on the ground to get their thoughts on the biggest happenings during the college football season. This week, we look at how Clemson will stay motivated now that they made quick work of the toughest team on their schedule, check in on USC’s surprising 2-0 start and look in on LSU to see if this is the year the Tigers finally overtake Alabama in the SEC West.

Clemson keeps rolling

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When most looked at Clemson’s 2019 schedule, the Texas A&M game was immediately circled as the defending champion’s toughest test. After all, in 2018, the Tigers were lucky to escape College Station with a two-point victory. As it would turn out, Clemson fans had nothing to worry about as the Tigers made easy work of the Aggies on Saturday. So can Clemson start making travel arrangements for the College Football Playoff already? We asked Cris Ard of to weigh in on Clemson’s win and the road the rest of the way in 2019.

“Of all of Clemson's regular-season opponents, it is my position that Texas A&M ranks No. 1 in terms of recruited talent. So naturally, on paper, the Aggies represented the Tigers' stiffest challenge. For Clemson to lose seven starters from its 2018 defense and hold what will be an outstanding A&M offense to a mere 289 total yards speaks volumes about the level of recruiting under Dabo Swinney and the game-planning ability of high-profile defensive coordinator Brent Venables. The Aggies scored their one and only touchdown with six seconds remaining to give Jimbo Fisher a backdoor cover.

There are question marks on Clemson's football team to be sure, notably a tight end, finding a fourth and fifth defensive tackle, shoring up one of the defensive end positions and missed tackles on the second level, but two games in this still looks like another national championship contender for Swinney.”

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Are the Trojans for real?

No coach came into the year with a hotter seat than USC coach Clay Helton, as some Trojans fans assumed it was a matter of if, not when the school would be looking for a new coach. That speculation was ratcheted up last week, when USC’s starting quarterback JT Daniels was lost for the year with a torn ACL. But true freshman Kedon Slovis stepped in to replace Daniels and the USC offense didn’t skip a beat as he led a come-from-behind win over Stanford. Sitting at 2-0 and with a suddenly dynamic offense, is Helton now coaching for a conference title instead of his job?

We checked in with’s Ryan Young to talk about the rise of Slovis and what it means for rest of USC’s season.

“USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell couldn’t help but drop a steady stream of “I told you so’s” when asked about true freshman QB Kedon Slovis’ star-turning first collegiate start Saturday night. Harrell has indeed been trying to tell everyone that the underrated three-star freshman was “special,” but many in the fan base didn’t want to listen — not when Slovis beat out two older QBs for the backup job and not when he was then unexpectedly thrust into the starting role following JT Daniels’ season-ending knee injury.

“They’re listening now, though. Slovis won over the fan base Saturday night — completing 28 of 33 passes for 377 yards and 3 TDs — and won USC a momentous, season-jolting 45-20 win over Stanford in which the Trojans scored the final 35 points and looked in control in a way they never did last season.

“No one — at least outside the Trojans’ locker room — knew what to expect from Slovis in his first start. Now, for the first time in more than a year, there is true optimism for this program, and the question becomes just how good can Slovis and USC really be?”


Slovis no surprise? ‘I tried to tell you the kid’s going to be really good

Column: Kedon Slovis validates the hype

First and 10: Key takeaways and critiques from USC’s win

Watch: Trojans react to Slovis’ breakout performance

Postgame chat: Join the conversation on USC’s victory

Air LSU?

There have been plenty of times over the past decade where LSU fans have been sold a bill of goods about a new-look offense. But in the Tigers’ road victory at Texas on Saturday night, all those promises finally came to fruition. LSU put up nearly 500 yards passing through the air, something that didn’t even happen when the Tigers had Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry on their roster. LSU still has plenty of tough opponents on the schedule, but with a quality quarterback and a number of weapons, is this the year the Tigers finally overtake Alabama?

We asked’s Jerit Roser to weigh in on the offensive explosion and what it means for LSU’s hopes to win the SEC West.

“Anyone doubting an actual offensive culture shift at LSU doesn’t have to dig too deep to see the proof. The No. 6 Tigers out-dueled No. 9 Texas on Saturday in a Big 12-style shootout in Darrell K. Royal behind one of the best statistical performances in program history by Joe Burrow and the passing attack. LSU still showed plenty of areas to clean up — particularly after some surprising lapses and miscues on defense. But coach Ed Orgeron and company were as quick as anyone to acknowledge those focused moving forward. In the meantime, the Tigers showed they have the talent, schemes and intangibles to compete with anyone on their schedule and anyone in the country in any style of game that breaks out. And suddenly that Nov. 9 trip to Tuscaloosa looks much different than most people outside Baton Rouge probably recognized before Saturday.”


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Watch: Ron Higgins and Jerit Roser talk LSU’s victory

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