ACC Championship Game Prediction: Can the Tigers make it three in a row?


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Clemson and Miami kick off at 8:14 p.m.
Clemson and Miami kick off at 8:14 p.m.

More than an ACC Championship is on the line Saturday in Charlotte. A berth in the College Football Playoff and a chance to play for the National Championship is also in play. Can the stakes get any higher this time of year?

No. 1 Clemson is the home team against No. 7 Miami in Saturday night’s ACC Championship Game. The winner likely moves on to the College Football Playoff while the loser heads to the Orange Bowl. The Orange Bowl is a nice consolation prize, but it’s not what either team wants.

It’s The U and the turnover chain versus the Power Rangers and ETN. This one could be a good one.

GAME 13 CLEMSON (11-1, 7-1 ACC ) VS. MIAMI (FL) (11-1, 7-1)

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2017
ACC Championship
Bank of America Stadium (75,525) Kickoff: 8:14 p.m.
TV: ABC Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor
CLEMSON RADIO NETWORK: (Don Munson, Rodney Williams, Sideline: Reggie Merriweather)
XM Radio: Ch. 84
ESPN Radio: Bill Rosinski, David Norrie

SERIES HISTORY
Miami leads 6-4
at Neutral Site: Miami leads 1-0
at Clemson: Miami leads 2-0
at Miami: Clemson leads 4-3
First Meeting: Miami 7-6 at Miami, 1945
Last Meeting: Clemson 58-0 at Miami, 2015
Last Miami Win: 30-21 at Clemson 2010
Streak: Road team won last 5

NOTABLE

Winning on the road

*Clemson defeated a South Carolina team ranked #24 in the College Football Playoff poll by a 34-10 score on November 25. It was the fourth time this year Clemson has beaten a team ranked in one of the polls on the road. Earlier, Clemson won at #14 Louisville, at #12 Virginia Tech and at #20 NC State. This is the first time in history Clemson has gained four wins on the road over top 25 teams in the same year. According to research by ESPN, Clemson is the first Power Five conference school in the last decade to win four games on the road in a season against teams that would have at least eight wins by the end of the season.

Cincinnati did it in 2009. Louisville (8-4), Virginia Tech (9-3), NC State (8-4) and South Carolina (8-4) all have at least eight wins this year. Clemson is 20-2 in games away from home over the last three seasons since the 2014 bowl season when the Tigers beat Oklahoma 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl. That includes a 14-1 record in true road games. Obviously, Saturday’s game in Charlotte against #7 Miami (FL) will be considered a neutral site game.

Turnovers

The Miami Hurricanes lead the nation turnover margin at +17. They have forced 29 (third in the nation) and committed just 12. Clemson is 48th in the nation in turnover margin with a +3 figure. The Tigers have forced 16 and committed 13. While there is a large disparity in that area, the teams are a lot closer in terms of points off turnovers. Miami (FL) is +57 in points off turnovers, scoring 72 points off the 29 opponent turnovers and giving up just 15 points after the Hurricanes turn it over on offense. But Clemson is not far behind with a +54 margin. Clemson has scored 77 points off opposing team turnovers and allowed just 23 points after a Clemson turnover.

WHY MIAMI MIGHT WIN

The No. 7 Canes (10-1, 7-1 ACC) lead the nation in turnover margin (+1.55 per game) and team sacks (3.55 per game) while ranking second in the country in team tackles for loss (8.6 per game) and third in turnovers gained (29).


Miami is also ranked in the top 15 in fumbles recovered (ninth, 12), passes intercepted (seventh, 17), scoring defense (15th, 18.3 per game) and team passing efficiency defense (11th, 109.01), proving that they are an outstanding defense for the second straight season under defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.

Junior defensive lineman RJ McIntosh, sophomore linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, junior cornerback Michael Jackson and junior safety Jaquan Johnson were all named to the All-ACC Second Team, while senior defensive lineman Trent Harrisgarnered All-ACC Third Team honors.

Add in junior defensive lineman Kendrick Norton, sophomore linebacker Michael Pinckney and sophomore cornerback Malek Young, who were All-ACC honorable mention selections, and Miami had eight defensive players earn All-ACC recognition.

Miami has also played its best football in its biggest games this season, beating then-No. 13 Virginia Tech, 28-10, and hammering then-No. 3 Notre Dame, 41-8. The Canes responded to those challenges and will look to do the same this weekend against Clemson.

WHY CLEMSON MIGHT WIN

Clemson does have an advantage in this game in terms of experience in ACC Championship games. This will be Clemson’s third straight appearance in the league championship game, while it will be the first appearance ever for Miami. Clemson has 23 players who have played in each of the last two ACC Championship games. That includes Ryan Carter, Tyrone Crowder, Mitch Hyatt and Hunter Renfrow, who have started in both games. Eight more players have one start in an ACC Championship game, Taylor Hearn, Dorian O’Daniel, Van Smith, Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Kendall Joseph, Dexter Lawrence and Sean Pollard. So, 12 players on the Clemson roster have started at least one ACC Championship game. Overall, there are 37 players on the Clemson roster who have played in at least one ACC Championship game. That’s a lot of experience. Add in the fact that most of those players have played in at least one round of the College Football Playoff and won a national title, well……

Miami is also very average offensively, and they are without three of their top playmakers. If the Tigers can avoid the big turnover and let quarterback Kelly Bryant manage the game they will make enough plays to outscore the Canes.

And don’t look now, but wide receiver Hunter Renfrow is playing his best football. After not scoring a touchdown in the first 10 games of the season, Renfrow now has three in the last two games. His 61-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the third period was the longest of his career. Renfrow now has 14 career touchdown receptions, two at home and 12 away from home. Renfrow does his best work in big games. Over the last three years in nine games against South Carolina, the ACC Championship game and College Football Playoff games, Renfrow has 36 receptions for 442 yards and eight touchdowns. In his other 28 games he has just six touchdowns.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN

Miami has had a great season, and their defense has been playing lights out. This is the school’s first appearance in an ACC Championship Game and they have had Clemson on a “hit list” since the 58-0 drubbing two years ago. In other words, Miami will be on an emotional high. That doesn’t bode well for the Canes. Clemson has played in a lot of big games, and they get every team’s best shot every week. They beat teams that get too emotional, like South Carolina last week.

Miami will get a turnover or two and they will score points off of them. But with so many playmakers out, the offense won’t be able to sustain drives and after the emotion wears off Clemson’s depth will begin to show. Bryant will take what the defense gives him, and after a slow start the Tigers will start to find gaps in the Diaz defense.

FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 30, MIAMI 17


GUEST PREDICTIONS

Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 31-17 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 28-10 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 28-13 Clemson
Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 34-20 Clemson
Daniel Shirley - Sports Editor, Macon Telegraph - 24-13 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 30-16 Clemson

GameActualDavid HoodMickey PlylerTony CrumptonNikki HoodBrandon RinkDaniel ShirleyPigskin Prophet
Kent St56-3 CU47-6 CU56-7 CU49-14 CU47-13 CU52-3 CU51-10 CU55-10 CU
Auburn14-6 CU24-20 CU27-20 CU28-21 CU28-20 CU27-24 CU24-10 CU27-17 CU
Lou47-21 CU31-23 CU27-24 CU31-21 CU27-20 CU34-27 CU28-17 CU34-20 CU
BC34-7 CU47-6 CU38-10 CU45-14 CU38-10 CU48-10 CU40-10 CU47-10 CU
VT31-17 CU27-16 CU31-17 CU28-17 CU30-20 CU24-20 CU24-17 CU30-17 CU
Wake28-14 CU34-10 CU34-14 CU31-10 CU35-13 CU38-13 CU38-7 CU37-13 CU
SU27-24 SU34-13 CU34-17 CU38-14 CU30-10 CU41-15 CU35-10 CU33-10 CU
GT24-10 CU27-17 CU23-17 CU31-14 CU24-10 CU28-17 CU24-10 CU30-14 CU
NCSU38-31 CU24-16 CU23-17 CU31-21 CU20-10 CU31-21 CU24-14 CU24-23 CU
FSU31-14 CU30-17 CU28-17 CU34-17 CU28-13 CU31-16 CU24-14 CU28-20 CU
Citadel61-3 CU44-6 CU56-7 CU49-3 CU52-6 CU55-3 CU45-10 CU41-9 CU
SC34-10 CU27-13 CU30-20 CU31-13 CU35-13 CU28-14 CU31-17 CU34-13 CU
Points - 11191315171515

* Points: 3 pts for best prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 1pt for picking the correct winner


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