Virginia vs Clemson Prediction
It’s here. Clemson fans can almost feel it. They can certainly smell it. And the sweet taste of victory certainly can’t be far behind. The long-awaited sign that Clemson football will matter again, the goal that Tommy Bowden failed to reach, is within reach, and all it will take is a win by the Tigers on Saturday over the visiting Virginia Cavaliers. We are, of course, talking about the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers may have already gained a berth in the game before they kick it off against the Cavaliers at 3:30 p.m., but it won’t matter. The Cavaliers and Tigers are headed in opposing directions – the Tigers have won five straight and are rolling on offense. The Cavs have lost four straight and their offense is struggling.
Virginia at Clemson
When Virginia Has the Ball
The Cavalier offense has had trouble running the football – their leading rusher has a little over 400 yards, and what little offense they have been able to generate has come off of the passing game. Jameel Sewell, who didn’t play for the Cavaliers last season after being a part of a bowl team in 2007, but has been solid if not spectacular throwing the football. In the end, however, the Cavaliers are either 11th or 12th in most offensive categories, and will be facing a Clemson defense that gets defensive end Da’Quan Bowers back from injury, and will be the final home of several standout defensive players. Unless the Tiger defense completely forgets how to play……
ADVANTAGE – CLEMSON
When Clemson Has the Ball
The Clemson offense entered its bye week in October facing questions about quarterback play, play calling, the young receivers, the offensive line, and the lack of production from the tight end spot. Those questions have either been answered or put in the background during Clemson’s five-game winning streak. The offense has averaged 42 points per game, been converting third downs at a regular clip, been efficient in the red zone, and has excelled in finding ways to get C.J. Spiller the football. Don’t look for Saturday to be any different. The Cavaliers employ a 3-4 defensive alignment, and that may give Clemson a temporary setback as they get used to seeing it, but the better talent will eventually take over. Kyle Parker is looking more and more like a poised, mature quarterback, and the Tigers are having players not named Ford and Spiller step up into big roles: Xavier Dye, Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper just to name a few. But here is to hoping that Mr. Spiller adds another big play into his Heisman resume.
ADVANTAGE – CLEMSON
Special teams have been an enigma for the Tigers. Spiller and Ford have been amazing so far this season in the return game, and the field goal/extra point teams were solid up until the Florida St. game, and two more kicks were missed last week. Virginia’s Al Groh may opt to kick it to Spiller and Ford and see if they can pick the Tigers deep [something that FSU had some success with], and not have to depend on his defense defending a short field. The Wolfpack kicked away from Spiller most of last week, and the Tigers had as short field for a lot of their drives. On the Cavalier side, the Cavaliers are last in kickoff returns, and really don’t have that one guy that scares you to death, even though Chase Minnifield is fourth in the ACC in kickoff return average (25.1). Clemson has been very solid in kickoff coverage, however. Robert Randolph is 15-for-17 on field goals this season, with a long of 49.
ADVANTAGE – Slight to CLEMSON
I really like the way the Clemson coaching staff has come around this season and has this team looking like it can finally play up to its talent potential. This staff continues to make in-game adjustments that seemed to lack previously, and the fire and commitment that Swinney and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele are a breath of fresh air. On the flip side, Al Groh and his staff might be on the way out. The team will miss going to a bowl game for the second consecutive season, and will have a second consecutive losing season for the first time since 1981-82. The team endured four consecutive losses to end last season, and they are currently on a four-game losing streak. With Clemson and Virginia Tech remaining, a 3-9 finish with a six-game losing streak could happen. Groh is an old-school coach [heck, he was the freshman coach for someone named Bill Parcells at West Point back in the day], and for some reason, his old school approach just hasn’t worked at Virginia.
ADVANTAGE – CLEMSON
All of the intangibles point toward Clemson not having any kind of a letdown against the Cavaliers – C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford and Michael Palmer and Ricky Sapp and Rendrick Taylor all play their last game in Death Valley. It’s senior Day, so all of the Clemson seniors will be recognized. And, oh yeah, there is that little matter of clinching the ACC Atlantic Division title and earning a berth in the ACC Championship game. IF the Tigers can get past all of the emotion of Senior Day, and can get past what will probably be a fired-up Al Groh defense, they roll.
CLEMSON 30, Virginia 6