CLEMSON — It's been nearly 12 months since Clemson played a game it did not win by at least multiple touchdowns, and the rest of the Tigers' regular season schedule doesn't exactly offer much in terms of upper-tier competition.
Clemson's biggest test, in many people's estimation, was supposed to be Saturday, when then-No. 12 Texas A&M came to Death Valley. The No. 1 Tigers, instead, outplayed the Aggies on both sides of the ball and were hardly tested in what amounted to a 24-10 victory, with Texas A&M's lone touchdown coming with six seconds remaining.
The Tigers might not play in a close game until the College Football Playoff, where the sport's other giants will await. That's not for several months, though. In the meantime, Clemson will aim to smooth out whatever rough edges remain.
Here are some takeaways from No. 1 Clemson's 17th straight victory.
Don't forget about Lyn-J Dixon
Running back Travis Etienne stole all the Week 1 attention with his 205-yard, three-touchdown performance, but he was less effective Saturday. The junior carried the ball 16 times for 53 yards and did not score a touchdown.
Etienne did record career highs in catches (four) and receiving yards (52), but it was his backup, sophomore Lyn-J Dixon, who starred out of the backfield.
Dixon rushed for 79 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries, in addition to catching two passes for eight yards. It was a memorable performance, one that indicated Dixon is hardly content as a bit player.
The sophomore figures to be a big player this season, and that was clear against Texas A&M.
Trevor Lawrence is fine
Trevor Lawrence, as it turns out, is just fine. The sophomore quarterback threw two interceptions in an unflattering Week 1 performance, but he was back to normal Saturday, throwing for 268 yards and one touchdown on 24 of 35 passing.
He did throw another interception, but Clemson's coaches were pleased with Lawrence's outing, during which he also rushed for a 1-yard score.
Lawrence is college football's most popular player, and probably Clemson's most important. It was an encouraging to see him turn in an efficient performance Saturday.
Clemson's defensive backs atone
Much of the conversation entering Saturday focused on the matchup between Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond and Clemson's secondary.
It was Mond, of course, who torched the Tigers for 430 yards and three touchdowns in last season's matchup. Would he do it again?
Nope. Mond had thrown for just 97 yards entering the fourth quarter and finished with 236 yards and one touchdown.
"The thing I was most pleased with us our positioning, our structure," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "Even when they made plays, we had guys there. Didn't have guys just running free, and that's a huge improvement."
Safety Tanner Muse intercepted Mond in the second half, his second pick in as many weeks.
Dominance of SEC continues
Amid Clemson's dominant run the past few seasons, cynics have pointed to the team's weak regular season schedule, given all of the ACC opponents.
There's some validity to that; Clemson is one of two ACC teams in the latest AP Top 25 poll — along with No. 25 Virginia — compared to seven Big Ten teams, six SEC teams and five Pac-12 teams.
But the Tigers have fared well against non-conference opponents, especially those in the SEC. With Saturday's win over Texas A&M, Clemson has now won nine of its last 10 games against SEC opponents dating back to 2016.
Amari Rodgers is back
Wide receiver Amari Rodgers suffered a torn ACL during the spring, but when Clemson played Texas A&M on Saturday, there Rogers was, on the field 166 days after the injury.
His impact was minimal — he recorded only for two catches for six yards. But Swinney was excited to have the junior back, noting that he expects big things from the 5-10 wide receiver this season.
"He's still working his way back into football day-to-day shape," Swinney said. "That's the first time he's played football since he got hurt from a live scrimmage situation. It's huge getting him back."
Death Valley advantage
It was 94 degrees at kickoff Saturday — the third hottest in Clemson history — leaving many of Death Valley's visitors drenched in sweat.
"It wasn't hot enough," Swinney said. "We wanted it hotter."
The weather contributed to the raucous environment, with the Tigers players feeding off the lively crowd. The result? Clemson has now won 38 of its last 39 home games and 17 in a row. Home-field advantage is not a myth.
Upset-minded Syracuse awaits
Syracuse is no stranger to playing underdog at home against Clemson. That was the situation on Oct. 13, 2017, when the unranked Orange upset then-No. 2 Clemson 27-24.
Syracuse was shocked by Maryland last week, falling 63-20 on the road. The defeat took some juice out of what would've been a hyped Week 3 matchup between two ranked ACC teams, but instead the Orange fell out of the Top 25.
That doesn't mean Clemson should take Syracuse lightly. Coach Dino Babers' team has shocked the Tigers before, and they could do it again this week in their home opener.