One of the two primetime games taking place on Saturday night for conference championship weekend will be the ACC Championship between the Clemson Tigers and North Carolina Tar Heels. Clemson blew their chance at the College Football Playoff with last weekend's loss to South Carolina so this game won’t hold the same weight for the Tigers, however, they can still become ACC champs for the seventh time since 2015. We’ll preview the game and go over which side to back as well.
North Carolina enters this weekend with a 9-3 record and two of those losses have come in the last two weekends. The Tar Heels have not looked like themselves these past two weeks and have not been able to put a full game together on either side of the ball.
Last weekend they got off to a very slow start against NC State and had to claw their way back and in the previous weekend, they went scoreless in the second half after having a lead. The good news for them is they still have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Drake Maye now facing a possibly less motivated Clemson defense.
North Carolina’s defense has been their biggest weakness this season but this Clemson offense is not all that its numbers make it out to be. The Tigers running game is undeniably strong behind running back Will Shipley who has rushed for 1092 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The questions on offense lie at the quarterback position, D.J. Uiagalelei only completed 8 passes in 29 attempts last weekend and at times has made this Clemson offense look stagnant. Despite them, not looking great the past two weekends this Tar Heels offense is not the team you want to continually punt the ball to and give extra possessions.
The Tigers' defense against Drake Maye will be a fun matchup to watch. Clemson’s defensive line has been stellar all season with an 8.05% sack rate behind star lineman Bryan Bresee. North Carolina is 90th in the country in QB sacked percentage on offense so the Tigers could put a lot of pressure on Maye come Saturday night.
North Carolina is currently +7.5 point underdogs and they are my best bet for this one. Getting the hook in this one for the Tar Heels makes me really like this number for them as I think they can keep things close with this Clemson team. I don’t trust the Tigers' offense to build a lead on this Tar Heels offense that has the ability to score at will.
The Tigers are still allowing 223.7 passing yards a game and in games against two of the top ACC offenses, the Tigers allowed 45 and 28 points. Both of those games also ended up being one-possession wins and mind you both of those offenses are strong but don’t have as good of numbers as the Tar Heels offense. North Carolina is averaging 8.7 yards per pass which is ninth in the country so Maye and top receiver Josh Downs should be able to find success this weekend.
Defensively the Tar Heels have allowed 180 rushing yards per game so Will Shipley could pose a tough match-up but if last weekend is any evidence the Clemson run game can’t win a game by themselves. I don’t think D.J. Uiagalelei can make enough big plays to beat this Tar Heels team by more than a touchdown.