The Clemson Tigers and Virginia Cavaliers will square off in Charlotte on Saturday night for the ACC title. This will be the 15th ACC Championship game since the league first expanded in 2005. The Tigers are seeking their fifth consecutive conference crown, while on their way to another College Football Playoff appearance. On the other hand, this will be Virginia’s first time in the ACC title game.
ACC Title Game Preview
Clemson rolls into this weekend’s match-up on a 27 game winning streak, with the last seven of those by an average of 50-9. This team is hitting in all cylinders at the moment. A lot has been made over the Tigers schedule strength this season, and whether they have been tested enough. However, regardless of what you think about the rest of the ACC, there is no denying that the defending national champs are indeed elite once again.
The Cavaliers have flown under the radar this season, possibly due to the conference’s perception nationally. Despite the lack of attention, they have put together a very good season. Bronco Mendenhall’s team sits at 9-3 and will be aiming for their first ACC title since 1995. They will also be looking to take down the conference’s current big bad bully. The Tigers have won 21 straight ACC contests.
The Standard is the Standard
Dabo Swinney’s program is currently sitting atop the college football landscape. They have won two of the last three national titles, and are loaded with next-level talent. Trevor Lawrence took the nation by storm a season ago as he led this team to a 15-0 season. His sophomore year has been just as impressive. He has 30 touchdown toss and only eight interceptions, and he also has 383 yards and seven scores on the ground. The biggest luxury for Lawrence is having the best receiver tandem in the country in Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. They have been making big plays all season long. If the talent in the passing game wasn’t difficult enough to stop, they also have two times ACC Offensive Player of the Year Travis Etienne to hand the ball off to.
Defensively the Tigers have been as ferocious as ever. Linebacker Isaiah Simmons took home the ACC’s Defensive Player of the year award, giving the Tigers another clean sweep of the conference’s hardware. This unit has been playing fast, aggressive, and smothering opponents. They have only allowed one team, North Carolina, to score more than two times in a game this season. Read that stat again, it is insane. The defense doesn’t have as many household names as it did a season ago, but it has been every bit as scary to face for opponents. If the Tigers play to their normal standard, they will leave Charlotte with their fifth consecutive ACC title.
Virginia comes in as a heavy underdog, and a bit of an unknown. It wasn’t until this past week’s victory over rival Virginia Tech that the Cavaliers finally got into the top 25. They are led by versatile signal-caller Bryce Perkins. He has had an excellent season, making plays through the air and on the ground. He has almost 700 yards rushing, and 27 total touchdowns with his arm and legs. Perkins will need to have his best game to give his team a chance. His ability to extend plays and use his legs will be crucial for Virginia. He has three receivers with over 55 catches on the season.
The defense is allowing just 338 yards and 23 points per game. The strength is in the secondary, which makes for an intriguing match-up with the Tigers’ playmakers. They have 11 interceptions as a team, led by safety Joey Blount’s three. The defensive backfield is a bigger group, with three guys, 6’1” or taller, and they play physical as well. This unit will also try to put loads of pressure on Lawrence, they have 38 sacks on the season. In order to pull off this upset, the Cavaliers will need Perkins to play at a high level, and the defense will need to get after the quarterback and force some mistakes.
The Tigers are 28.5 favorites to win another ACC crown in Charlotte. They are playing at an elite level right now, and have one of the most talented rosters in the nation. Virginia will not go down easy though. They are a tough team and will look to shorten the game to keep Clemson’s skill players on the sideline. It will take a near flawless Cavalier performance and some mistakes by the reigning champs for there to be a chance at an upset. It will all be decided on Championship Saturday.