#3 Clemson vs #23 Virginia
ACC Championship Game
Bank of America Stadium
7:30 PM ABC
After winning the Coastal for the first time, Virginia comes into its first ever ACCCG playing with house money. The 9-3 Cavaliers are 28 point underdogs, with no one giving them much of a shot at competing, much less winning. If they were to find a way to win, they’re Orange Bowl bound. If they lose, they are still headed to the Orange Bowl. Again, this Virginia team is playing with house money, and that makes them dangerous.
This may surprise some, but this Virginia team is just good enough pull this off. This is a good football team, with a lot of really good players. They have one elite player, and he just so happens to play the most important position on the field. They’re also extremely well coached. Add in that they will be able to play loose, and with nothing to lose, and it’s a safe bet that the Wahoo’s give the Tigers a better game than than either of their last two opponents in Charlotte.
This Virginia defense is good. Only twice have they given up over 400 yards of offense this season. In six of their twelve games, they held the opposing team to under 100 yards on the ground. They rank 27th nationally in total defense, 26th in rush defense, and 24th in 3rd down defense.
What they are really good at though is getting after the quarterback. They are 6th in the country in sacks with 43 (Clemson has 35), so the Clemson offensive line will need to be on top of their game. Travis Etienne, Lyn-J Dixon, and whoever is at TE can not afford to have slip ups in their pass protection. UVA will make you pay for any mistakes. Expect them to throw every kind of look they have at the Tigers.
On offense, it is all about QB Bryce Perkins. They go as he goes, as evidenced by the fact that Perkins has accounted for about 80% of the entire teams yardage on offense. If Virginia is going to win, it will need a monster game from Perkins. On the ground and in the air.
Brent Venables will be coming after him on 3rd and long and he will need to make some plays with his legs in those situations. They’ll have to convert some of those to extend drives. The more they can slow the game down, the better. The Cavaliers are leading the ACC in time of possession.
Problem is, they’ve not fared well against the two better defenses they saw this season. Against Notre Dame and Miami, the Cavs struggled to score points and had major issues inside the red zone.
Unfortunately for the Cavs, they are fixing to come face to face with a well oiled machine. This Tiger team is once again peaking at the right time and has destroyed every team they have played over the last month. Oh, and as we all know, they are ticked off.
After some hiccups early, Trevor Lawrence is once again showing the country that he’s the best college QB in the land. Sorry Joe Burrow, but that’s not you. Lawrence hasn’t thrown a pick since the first quarter of the Louisville game on October 19. He has 16 TDs over that same span and is averaging almost 12 yards per attempt. The Cavs are likely to bring extra help inside to slow the Tigers ground game, so there should be opportunities downfield for the elite Clemson wideouts.
Speaking of that ground game, Travis Etienne is rolling, as he’s closing in on the schools all time rushing record held by Raymond Priester. With fresh legs and having some extra motivation after the Doak Walker snub, ETN could be looking at a big night in Charlotte.
The biggest factor for Clemson though, is that defense. You can not get the best of this unit with a one man show on offense. Isaiah Simmons will be the kryptonite for Bryce Perkins. Expect Simmons to lead the way as the Tigers hold their 13th straight opponent to under 300 yards of offense.
The Cavs won’t have much success throwing the ball, and that will allow the front seven of that Clemson D to key on the run. The Wahoo’s make a play or two, but this is a laser focused Clemson team and that doesn’t bode well for anyone standing in their way.