CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Clemson has its eye on a second consecutive national championship, but the third-ranked Tigers first have to secure a fifth straight ACC crown. Clemson aims to avoid a slip-up and secure its spot in the College Football Playoff bracket when it faces No. 22 Virginia in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Clemson -28.5
The Tigers are trying to join the 1971-75 Alabama teams as the only members of any current FBS conference to win five consecutive outright conference titles. They’re prohibitive favorites to continue their reign against a Virginia team that has struggled away from home. The Cavaliers are 2-3 on the road, including losses at Miami and Louisville, but closed out the regular season with four straight victories to clinch the division crown. While Clemson has become a mainstay on this stage, Virginia is making its first appearance in the ACC title game and is the seventh different ACC Coastal champion in the past seven seasons.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (9-3)
Not many players have been able to test Clemson’s dominant defense, but Cavaliers quarterback Bryce Perkins presents a unique challenge for the Tigers. Perkins is one of three players in the nation to pass for more than 2,900 yards (2,949) and rush for more than 600 (687), and his school-record 3,636 yards of total offense rank 13th in the nation. Virginia’s pass rush has racked up 43 sacks, matching the program’s single-season record set in 2007, but the defense has regressed a bit down the stretch, and the Cavaliers have had to put up big numbers on offense during their recent winning streak.
ABOUT CLEMSON (12-0)
Clemson’s top-ranked scoring defense (10.1 points) has allowed more than 14 points once all season - a nail-biting 21-20 victory at North Carolina on Sept. 28 - and has surrendered three points in each of the past two contests. The Tigers have not allowed a touchdown in nine quarters and are trying to hold a third consecutive opponent to three points or fewer for the first time since 1981. The explosive offense is rolling, too, as quarterback Trevor Lawrence has thrown for 16 touchdowns and no interceptions in the past five games, and Travis Etienne (1,386) is approaching a second consecutive 1,500-yard rushing season.
1. Clemson has won seven straight games by 30 points or more, tied for the longest streak since 1936, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
2. FBS teams have thrown at least six touchdown passes in a game 19 times this season; Clemson has allowed a total of six passing touchdowns in 12 games.
3. Virginia is trying to clinch the second 10-win season in program history, joining the 1989 team that went 10-3 and earned a share of the ACC crown.
PREDICTION: Clemson 45, Virginia 14