Countdown to Kickoff: No. 1 Clemson at UNC

Countdown to Kickoff: No. 1 Clemson at UNC

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Countdown to Kickoff: No. 1 Clemson at UNC

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Top-ranked Clemson hits the road for the second time this season when it visits North Carolina’s Keenan Stadium on Saturday in Chapel Hill.

The Tigers have not played in Chapel Hill since 2010, Dabo Swinney’s second year as head coach. In fact, it is the only time in the 17 seasons Swinney has been at Clemson that the Tigers have played at Keenan Stadium.

Clemson owns a 15-11-1 record all-time in Chapel Hill, but lost in its last visit there, 21-16. Swinney said it was a miserable today for him because he did not have his team ready to play. He said it was the worst game he has ever coached as a head coach.

Game Information

Where: Keenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Records: Clemson 4-0, 2-0 ACC; UNC 2-2, 1-0 ACC

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

TV: ABC (Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy, Tom Luginbill)

Radio: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Tajh Boyd, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather). Sirius XM 81

Latest Line: Clemson minus-27 points

Series History

  • OVERALL: Clemson leads, 37-19-1
  • HOME: Clemson leads, 20-8
  • ROAD: Clemson leads, 15-11-1
  • NEUTRAL: Clemson leads, 2-0
  • LAST MEETING: Dec. 5, 2015 (45-37 W)
  • STREAK: Clemson, Won 3

Three story lines

It has been 73 years since a major college football team recorded 15 consecutive wins of 14 points or more (21 by Army from 1944-46, and 15 by Georgia from 1945-46). On Saturday, Clemson can end that seven-plus-decade drought and tie for the second longest streak of 14-point wins in the AP Poll era.

Clemson already has 16 sacks this year with no player with more than two sacks on the roster. Why is this stat important? The Tar Heels are already down their starting center, Nick Polino, and now left tackle Charlie Heck could miss the game, too. Polino was injured against Miami in Week 2 and has missed the last two games. He has already been ruled out for this week. Heck is listed as questionable for the Clemson game with a broken right hand. Redshirt freshman Joshua Ezeudu could get the start. If Heck can’t go, UNC’s potential starting offensive line will consist of two redshirt freshmen and three redshirt sophomores.

North Carolina has shown the ability to stretch the field vertically on offense by tying for the ACC lead with 25 plays of 20 or more yards through four games. That figure is tied for 12th nationally with Wake Forest, and 16 plays have come through the air with nine on the ground. This week, Clemson will attempt to hold a fourth straight opponent to 10 or fewer points for the first time since 2000.

UNC’s three players to watch

Sam Howell, QB: The true freshman is already making a name for himself in the ACC. Howell is averaging 256.0 yards per game tossing the ol’ pigskin around and has thrown 9 touchdowns to 2 interceptions thus far. He is completing 64.1 percent of his passes.

Javonte Williams, RB: Williams leads the Tar Heels with 299 yards, 74.8 yards per game on the ground. The sophomore is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and has scored one touchdown.

Chazz Surratt, LB: Surratt made the decision at the end of last season that his best opportunity to keep playing football after college was to switch from quarterback to linebacker. So far, it has been a really good decision. Surratt played 61 snaps and tallied 12 tackles, a sack, a PBU and a pressure in helping the defense hold South Carolina to 270 total yards in the season opener. He is currently third on the team with 27 tackles and tied for second with 2.0 sacks.

Prediction:

North Carolina has some playmakers on offense. Howell is the best quarterback the Tigers have seen to this point and Williams and junior running back Michael Carter are one of the two best combo running backs in the ACC. Wide receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome are exciting receivers and can catch anything thrown their way. However, UNC’s offensive line is banged up and it is depth is an issue. The Tar Heels are also banged up on the defensive front. Look for Clemson to try and exploit both areas on Saturday. With a sellout crowd on hand, the Tar Heels will come out energized, but Clemson has way too much talent and depth for North Carolina to compete for a long period of time.

Score prediction: Clemson 45, UNC 17

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