ACC Championship Game Prediction: The Tigers look for five straight


by - Senior Writer -
Clemson and Virignia play each other at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Clemson and Virignia play each other at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Saturday’s ACC Championship Game will be about the familiar and the unfamiliar when Clemson and Virginia collide in Charlotte at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

No. 3 Clemson will face No. 22 Virginia in the 2019 ACC Football Championship Game on Saturday, Dec. 7, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Coastal Division Champion Virginia will be making its first appearance in the game, while Atlantic Division Champion Clemson returns for the fifth straight season and seventh time overall. Clemson has won the last four league championship games.

Clemson and Virginia haven’t faced each other since 2013.

NO. 3/3 CLEMSON (12-0, 8-0 ACC) vs. NO. 22/22 VIRGINIA (9-3, 6-2 ACC)

WHEN: SATURDAY, DEC. 7, 7:30 P.M. ET

WHERE: BANK OF AMERICA STADIUM (75,412), CHARLOTTE, N.C.

TELEVISION: ABC (Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Todd McShay, Maria Taylor)

RADIO: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Brad Scott, Rodney Williams, Reggie Merriweather)

RADIO: ESPN Radio (Sean Kelley, Barrett Jones, Ian Fitzsimmons)

SATELLITE RADIO: Sirius 81, XM 81, Internet 81

CLEMSON/VIRGINIA SERIES HISTORY

OVERALL: Clemson leads series, 38-8-1

HOME: Clemson leads series, 20-3-1

ROAD: Clemson leads series, 18-5

NEUTRAL: N/A

LAST MEETING: Nov. 2, 2013 (59-10, W)

STREAK: Clemson, Won 3

NOTABLE

*Clemson has won 18 ACC football titles, three more than any other program. A win for the Tigers would be their fifth straight conference title. Virginia has won two ACC football championships, sharing the title in 1989 with Duke and 1995 with Florida State.

*Coastal Carousel: Virginia is the seventh different team to represent the Coastal Division in the last seven years. The Cavaliers are the 11th different program to play in the game. Clemson leads all teams with seven overall appearances.

*UVA and Clemson are playing at a neutral site for only the second time in series history. UVA and Clemson met on Oct. 16, 1971, at Richmond City Stadium in what was deemed the Tobacco Bowl. Clemson won, 32-15. The Tobacco Bowl (or Tobacco Festival Bowl) was not a postseason bowl game and it typically featured regional teams from Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The festival held a game every year from 1949-1982.

*Virginia is playing for its first outright ACC title in football after sharing the 1989 title with Duke and the 1995 title with Florida State. UVA won the head-to-head in 1989 with Duke and with Florida State in 1995.

*Clemson entered 2019 as the only program in ACC history to win four consecutive outright titles. With wins this week, Clemson and Oklahoma can join the 1971- 75 Alabama Crimson Tide as the only members of any active FBS conference to win five straight outright titles. This week, Clemson will attempt to become the only program since the creation of conference championship games in 1992 to win five consecutive conference championship games.

*Virginia needs a win either over Clemson or in a bowl game to earn its 10th win of the season. If that happens, it would be just the second time in school history the Cavaliers have earned 10 wins in a season. Clemson has nine consecutive 10-win seasons and 17 overall.

WHEN VIRGINIA HAS THE BALL

QB Bryce Perkins is one of three players in the nation, joining Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and ULM’s Caleb Evans, to pass for 2,900+ yards and rush for 600+ yards so far this season. Perkins is No. 1 in the ACC and No. 13 in the nation with 3,636 yards of total offense, which has already broke his own single-season UVA record from 2018 (3,603).

Now, I am not saying that Perkins is the Cavs’ offense, but yes, he is the Cavs’ offense. He is the leading rusher and they depend on him to get the ball to wideouts like Joe Reed (70 receptions), Hasise Dubois (55 receptions), and Terrell Jana (61 receptions).

Clemson owns the nation’s best pass defense and best back-seven and will be able to limit the plays in the passing game, so it’s up to Perkins to make plays with his feet. He will do that, on occasion, but it’s not enough to score enough to beat Clemson.

ADVANTAGE: CLEMSON

WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL

Virginia’s defense has a lot of good things going for it. Virginia owns 11 interceptions and six fumble recoveries. Safety Joey Blount has three picks, a fumble recovery, and 3.5 sacks. UVA’s defense is No. 6 in the nation with 43 sacks (3.58 per game). The Cavaliers linebacking corps alone has 25.5 sacks (2.1 per game).

ILB Zane Zandier currently is No. 1 on the team with 85 tackles as UVA is ranked No. 27 in the nation (No. 4 in the ACC) in total defense, allowing an average of 336.5 yards per game.

However, the Cavaliers have battled injuries in the secondary and the defense hasn’t been great the last few weeks. In November alone, the Cavaliers gave up 116 points (Clemson gave up 121 all season).

The Cavs will need to affect the Clemson running game with Travis Etienne and use those rangy outside linebackers to get pressure on quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Lawrence is playing on a different level right now, and Etienne is etching his name into the Clemson and ACC record book every week.

ADVANTAGE: CLEMSON

SPECIAL TEAMS

WR Joe Reed is tied for No. 9 in FBS history with five kick returns for a touchdown. He is also tied for No. 3 in ACC history with five kick returns for touchdowns. He is currently No. 1 in the nation with a 34.7 yards per kick return, and on deep kicks to inside the five-yard line, Reed has returned 13 kicks for an average of 41.5 yards per return. Reed is the only player in the nation this season with 22 or fewer kick returns and over 700 kick return yards. Reed leads the nation in the following return categories: kick returns of 70+ yards (3), 80+ yards (2) and 90+ yards (2).

Yes, he’s a weapon, so it’s imperative that B.T. Potter put every kickoff into the back of the endzone and limit Reed’s ability to impact the game.

The Cavaliers don’t have a punter than scares you (Nash Griffin, 41.35 yards per punt), but kicker Brian Delaney has hit 19-of-23 field goal attempts.

Speaking of Potter, 62 of his 80 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks. Punt returner Amari Rodgers looks like he’s getting closer and closer each week to breaking off a long one.

ADVANTAGE: EVEN

WHAT WILL HAPPEN

I am sure the Cavaliers will play well, but they have to have Perkins play well the entire game if they want to keep up with the Tigers. If Perkins is ineffective for long stretches, the Cavs stand no chance, and my guess is that Brent Venables has drawn a gameplan to do just that. This will be in doubt longer than last year’s game against Pitt, but expect another fast start by Clemson, another suffocating defensive effort and plenty of reserves by the fourth quarter.

FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 44, UVA 13

Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 42-17 Clemson

Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 42-13 Clemson

Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 52-13 Clemson

Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 45-13 Clemson

Pigskin Prophet - 40-13 Clemson

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