Third ranked Clemson heads to Charlotte this weekend as the Atlantic Division Champ for the fifth straight season. The Tigers have won the previous four trips and are looking to become the first ever team to win the ACC outright, five consecutive years.
Virginia comes in as the winner of the Coastal, making their first appearance in the title game, and giving Clemson its fifth different opponent in as many seasons in the ACCCG. Currently Virginia is as much as a 29 point underdog, and the FPI gives Clemson a 94.9% chance to win.
The Wahoo’s are just 2-3 away from home this season, including road losses to Miami and Louisville. They have won four straight however, including breaking a 15 game losing streak to Virginia Tech last weekend, with a 39-30 win over the Hokies.
Virginia comes in ranked 31st in total defense, allowing 336.5 yards per game. They give up 23.5 points per game, which is good for 43rd nationally. During the month of November, they gave up 116 points. By comparison, Clemson allowed 121 all season. They have intercepted 11 passes this season, with safety Joey Blount picking off three. Winning the turnover margin will be a must if they are to have any shot.
This Virginia team lives and dies with QB Bryce Perkins though. He has thrown for 2949 yards, hitting on 64% of his passes, and is the teams leading rusher with 687 yards. He has carried the ball 93 more times than the teams starting running back, Wayne Taulapapa.
The 5’9 210 lb Taulapapa has carried the ball just 103 times for 425 yards. That’s good for 4 yards per carry and he has 12 rushing TDs. He isn’t used in the passing game though, as evidenced by his having just 4 catches all season.
The Cavs do have three receivers with at least 55 catches. Joe Reed has 70 catches for 627 yards, Terrell Jana has 60 for 690 yards, and Hasise Dubois has 55 for 849 yards. The three have combined for 10 TD catches, with Reed accounting for 6 of those. The Tigers secondary hasn’t been tested a ton this season. We will see if the UVA receivers can do so.
With the dual threat ability of Perkins, this game will be a perfect opportunity for Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons to show off his versatility to the nation. Simmons is a Butkus Award finalist, and the ACCCG will be his final chance to make his case to voters. Simmons, as well as those other LBs, will be the key for Brent Venables defense when it comes to defending Perkins and not allowing these kind of runs.
Take away his ability to make plays with his legs and make him beat you through the air.
This Virginia team is very well coached, and they play disciplined football. They don’t tend to beat themselves very often. Like every other team from the ACC Clemson has faced this season though, the Wahoo’s do not have the athletes. The Tigers have an advantage in talent at pretty much every position on the field. In other words, it’s time to feast on some white meat.