No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 7 Miami
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Atlantic Coast Conference Championship plus a spot in the College Football Playoff is on the line when top-ranked Clemson plays No. 7 Miami today at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
The theme is simple, win and you are in. The loser gets a nice parting prize – an all expenses paid trip to Miami for the Orange Bowl.
However, the Tigers (11-1) want to taste something sweeter than an orange and would love to cement their first appearance in the Sugar Bowl since 1959.
So, what does Clemson have to do to beat the Hurricanes (10-1)? Who has the edge in today’s 8 p.m. kick?
Kelly Bryant vs. Miami’s front seven: Miami’s front four, led by defensive end Trent Harris and his 8.5 sacks, the Hurricanes lead the country in sacks per game and tackles for loss per game. However, as good as Miami has been at getting pressure on the quarterback, it has been average at stopping the run. The ‘Canes are allowing 152.4 yards per game, which means Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant and the Tigers’ running game will have their opportunities. Clemson is above average when it comes to running the football and is perhaps the most balanced offense in the ACC. The Tigers are averaging 214.7 yards per game on the ground. They like to run Bryant on the counter and on the power, where he has picked up the majority of his 639 yards. But Bryant just isn’t a running quarterback. As he proved against South Carolina last week, he can throw the ball and make good decisions if a defense wants to force this issue. Bryant ranks sixth nationally in completion percentage at 66.4 percent. He has also proven in the last two weeks he can make plays down field with his arm. Advantage: Clemson
Malik Rosier vs. Clemson’s front seven: This is almost like writing the same thing as above. Led by Clelin Ferrell and his 8.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. However, Clemson isn’t average at stopping the run. The Tigers lead the ACC in rushing defense and rank 14th in the nation. Though Malik Rosier is a good runner, he has not been that accurate of a passer, completing just 55.3 percent of his passes. He struggled and was inconsistent in last week’s loss to Pitt. It does not help either that two of his top three targets—tight end Christopher Herndon and wide receiver Ahmmon Richard—are out for the season with knee injuries. Running back Travis Homer has done an excellent job (861 yds, 7 TDs) filling in for the injured Mark Walton, but as a whole the ‘Canes running game has been average at running the ball, averaging just 164.7 yards per game. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson offense vs. The Turnover Chain: The Turnover Chain at Miami has caught the college football world by storm. The Hurricanes lead the nation in turnover margin and rank third and led the ACC in forced turnovers with 29. The Canes have turned those 29 turnovers into 72 points. But what people don’t know is that Clemson is one of the best in the country at taking care of the football, just 13 all season. The Tiger defense has also done a good job of preventing defenses from scoring after a turnover, allowed just 23 points and only two touchdowns after a turnover and one of those came last week after the Tigers’ had already built a 34-0 lead over South Carolina. Also, the Tigers have forced just 16 turnovers, but they have scored 77 points—all touchdowns—after forcing a turnover. Miami might have the Turnover Chain, but Clemson has the edge. Advantage: Clemson
Bottom Line: Miami is coming to Charlotte a little mad after losing to Pitt last week. They also have the edge that they can knock off the defending national champions and create their own path to the College Football Playoff. However, the Tigers are built for these moments. Though Rosier came out this week and said his team has to play to a higher standard than they did last week at Pitt, there is a saying at Clemson, “Best is the Standard” every week and that has especially been the case in championship games. Miami will not be a pushover by no stretch, but Clemson’s depth on offense and defense will hold off the upstart ‘Canes. Miami’s day is coming in the ACC, but it is just not on this day.
Prediction: Clemson 30, Miami 20