For many, it’s a forgone conclusion that the ACC championship is more than likely a play-in game to the playoffs. After Miami tripped on it’s last hurdle before the ACC Championship, losing to the Pitt Panthers, the Hurricanes are sure to be on the outside looking in at the top four. Clemson meanwhile is on a five game winning streak, having won the last three games by 17 points or better. Whether or not Miami was looking ahead to the matchup in Charlotte, all hope now rests with winning the ACC Championship. The task becomes even more difficult now after the announcement that senior tight end Chris Herndon has been lost for the season with a torn MCL. Top receiver Ahmmon Richards is also out after having injured his knee in practice earlier this week.
Battle Of Best Trench Play
The All-ACC teams revealed that most of Clemson’s defensive line was voted first team. If not for Bradley Chubb, Austin Bryant would have been a first team recipient. Meanwhile the Miami Hurricanes, who lead the FBS in sacks per game, turnover margin, and are top three in tackles for loss, turnovers gained did not have a first team defensive player at any position. That sets up to be a long day for both offenses as they will likely face the best defensive line units that they have seen all season.
Clemson’s offensive line was voted as being the best in the conference as well with three first team selections, a third team selection and a lone honorable mention. That unit is responsible for the 1,996 rushing yards that the trio of Kelly Bryant, Tavien Feaster and Travis Etienne have gained on the ground. The Hurricanes defense has not allowed a 100 yard rusher since their game against Syracuse but they do struggle with athletic quarterbacks that have the ability to break contain and run.
The Miami offense is looking to rebound after only rushing for 45 yards versus the Pitt Panthers. Quarterback Malik Rosier is also looking to rebound off of his worst performance this season, which drew Mark Richt to bench him for a drive in the fourth quarter.
Matchups in Passing Game Will Be Crucial
With two of the best defenses in the nation, don’t expect many big plays. But with the caliber of athletes on the perimeter there will still be some plays made downfield. One of the advantages that Miami has is it’s receiving core, minus Richards, with Lawrence Cager, Jeff Thomas, and Braxton Berrios they could give the injured Clemson secondary some fits.
The Miami secondary is also longing for depth with only five healthy cornerbacks. The Clemson passing attack has seen the emergence of Tee Higgins in the past two weeks, to open things up more for Hunter Renfrow and Deon Cain.
Measuring Stick Game
Many are in awe of the job that Mark Richt has done this season. But, Dabo Swinney has been equally impressive replacing his top passer, rusher and receiver from last season to only have one blemish on their record. Clemson, under Dabo, has etched it’s place in the college football world as one of the top programs. The support around the Clemson program shows that as does the results on the field.
Richt was not shy about the high quality of players that are in the Clemson uniform, and even stated that Clemson is the measuring stick in the ACC Conference. After convincing wins of Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, many wanted to proclaim that the University of Miami was “back”. With respect to the history of Miami, being back is bringing home championships and getting back as a regular powerhouse in college football.
Could This Matchup Be The Norm in the ACC?
With Jimbo Fisher possibly leaving Florida State for the Texas A&M job, this ACC game could be the one for years to come. The future of both programs looks bright with the influx of talent that both teams possess. The stability in head coaches also helps enormously. With success comes the inevitable graduation of key assistant coaches to more prominent roles. Brent Venables and Manny Diaz are both coaches that many programs will covet in the coming years.
Good coaches help out a ton but so does great talent both teams have young talent set to enroll early. Clemson is set to lose much of their defensive line to the NFL Draft this season but will also gain the number two player in the nation Xaiver Thomas to fill that role. The number one player in the nation is a quarterback Trevor Lawrence, that is also committed to Clemson and both will be enrolling early and be with the team in January. Miami is also set to have more than 10 early enrollees for the second straight season and this time from a top five recruiting class.