The third-ranked Clemson Tigers will take on the 23rd-ranked Virginia Cavaliers in a battle for the ACC championship at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, on Saturday night. Clemson will be seeking its fifth straight ACC title.
One Win Away
Clemson will enter this game as a heavy favorite, led by its Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The sophomore signal-caller has thrown for 2,870 yards, 30 touchdowns, and eight interceptions this season; he also has the sixth-best QBR in the country at 87.0.
Tee Higgins has been Lawrence’s favorite target this season with 43 receptions for 900 yards and 10 touchdowns. The pair always finds a way to connect and make a difference no matter who the opponent is, and they will be looking to do the same this week.
Leading Clemson on the ground this season has been junior Travis Etienne, who has 168 carries this season for 1,386 yards and 16 touchdowns. Thanks to Clemson’s dangerous passing attack, Etienne has had some open lanes to run through this season, giving him an 8.3 yards-per-carry average, which ranks him second in the nation.
The Tigers are averaging 45.3 points per game while allowing just 10.1. They also post 541 yards of offense per game while they give up 232.8. While it has a perfect 12-0 record and its stats jump off the page, the knock on Clemson this season has been its weak schedule.
Virginia will be just the second ranked opponent the Tigers will play this season. The other was Texas A&M, which they played back in early September in a game ended in a 24-10 victory for Clemson.
Hoping For An Upset
The Virginia Cavaliers march into this ACC Championship Game after winning four straight, including taking down rival Virginia Tech 39-30 last week. The Cavaliers are sitting at 9-3 this season, looking to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season against Clemson.
Virginia is led by senior quarterback Bryce Perkins in both passing yards and rushing yards. The dynamic quarterback has 2,949 yards passing this season with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. On the ground, Perkins has tallied up 196 carries for 687 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.
If Virginia is going to stand any chance against Clemson, it will need to keep the Tigers’ front seven off Perkins’ back and allow him to be explosive for its offense.
The Cavaliers’ leading receiver this year has been Hasise Dubois, as the senior has reeled in 55 catches for 849 yards and three touchdowns.
Virginia is averaging 33.7 points per game, while its defense is allowing 23.5. The Cavaliers are also posting 390.3 yards of offense while giving up 336.5.
The Cavaliers have a tall task ahead of them on both sides of the ball. They will have to find a way to slow down Lawrence to avoid turning this game into a shootout. On offense, they will need to keep one of the best pass rushes in the country off their quarterback to give him a chance to make plays.
What To Expect
Clemson is favored in this game by 28.5 points and the over/under is set at 55.5. My only concern with the Tigers is the lack of competition they have faced this season.
While I think they have too much talent for Virginia to keep up with them, I also believe it will be closer than a 29-point game. Of the top four teams in the country, Clemson has been the least impressive this season and has seemed to coast to the College Football Playoff with just this last hurdle in the way.
Look for Clemson’s pass rush to stall Virginia’s offensive gameplan and eventually put it away while Lawrence and the offense move the ball effectively after a slow start in the first half.