Clemson’s next challenge: Once again managing expectations

FILE - In this Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, file phot, Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant (2) throws a pass against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Clemson, S.C. Not every school can be like No. 2 Clemson, which is going for a second straight national championship despite replacing two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson at quarterback.  (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, File)

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) No. 2 Clemson faces the challenge this week of staying focused after successfully clearing the hurdle of strong early season tests.

The defending national champions (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) have already posted two of the biggest wins of the season with back-to-back victories against No. 15 Auburn and No. 19 Louisville . Now, Clemson begins a long stretch of games where its expected to win – and win big, starting with Boston College (1-2, 0-1) on Saturday.

”These first three games have been a big test for us,” Tigers defensive end Clelin Ferrell said. ”That first game (against Kent State) was getting our feet wet with a new team. Then Auburn and Louisville, two big, prime-time games. But we understand that just because we’ve played in big games early in the season, that doesn’t make you the best team, the national champions.”

Ferrell said there are enough players from last year’s title team that accept each week is new chance at success or failure. Few Tigers, Ferrell said, anticipated losing to Pitt last fall with the team undefeated and cruising in mid-November.

Those lessons will be remembered and discussed all week.

”The whole total body of work at the end of the year, that’s just going to put a testament to how good of a team and how great of a year you’ll have,” he said.

Boston College will have its hands full slowing down the Tigers, who outgunned Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals 47-21 last week.

The Eagles gave up 515 yards rushing in a 49-20 loss to Notre Dame last week. They’ll face a Clemson team that’s averaged more than 500 yards a game so far, 248 of that on the ground.

”So hey, football is like that. You keep going. You keep grinding,” Eagles coach Steve Addazio said. ”We’re going into the fourth game of the season. Our schedule is a little front-end loaded right now and that’s fine.”

Things to watch when Boston College plays No. 2 Clemson:

BALANCED EAGLES: BC coach Steve Addazio said his offense improved in the Notre Dame loss. It was the first time since 2013 Addazio’s team had a quarterback with 20 completions and a 100-yard rusher. Anthony Brown was 24-of-40 passing for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Jon Hilliman ran for 122 yards on 22 carries. Brown said Notre Dame helped prepare him for this weekend. ”It was a little preparation for what I’m about to go into and what we’re about to go into as a team because it’s one of the best teams in the country,” he said.

CAREFUL CELEBRATIONS: Tigers receiver Hunter Renfrow has found a new way to celebrate touchdowns with teammate defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who typically likes to pound a helmet or slap a back real hard. Renfrow says the two play rock-paper-scissors after big moments. ”I was getting tired of him smacking me on the head,” Renfrow joked.

BOSTON COLLEGE LOSS: The Eagles come to Death Valley without linebacker Conner Strachan, the team’s top tackler from a year ago. Addazio said Strachan, a senior, is out with a knee injury. Boston College called on running back Davon Jones to help at linebacker to increase the team’s depth.

CLEMSON PUNTER: Clemson’s first-year punter Will Spiers has done his part so far this season to keep opponents backed up, so much so that he was named the ACC special teams player of the week. Spiers is the son of former Major Leaguer Bill Spiers, an infielder for Milwaukee, the New York Mets and Houston. The younger Spiers was only about 3 when his dad retired, meaning he did not really recall most kids’ dreams of days at the ballpark. ”That’s just the way it was,” Will Spiers said.

FACING NATIONAL CHAMP CLEMSON: It’s the second time Boston College has played defending national champion Clemson. The Eagles and Tigers met in the 1982 season in a game where BC quarterback Doug Flutie led his team back from a 14-0 halftime deficit. The game ended in a 17-all tie as Clemson kicking great Donald Igwebuike missed a 43-yard field goal attempt in the final stretch.

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