Clemson enters Saturday’s game at North Carolina averaging 524.8 yards per game, the second-best mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference and just shy of last year’s school-record pace of 527.2 yards per game. It is also averaging 42.3 points per game, again, just shy of last year’s record mark of 44.3 points per game average.
Last week, in the top-ranked Tigers win over Charlotte, they posted 466 yards in the midst of playing a school-record 111 players. Through four games this season, Clemson has accrued 2,099 yards of offense, the team’s most through the first four games of a season, surpassing the 2,054 posted by the 2017 squad through four weeks.
With 493 yards this week, Clemson can break the 2013 squad’s mark for the most yardage through the first five games of a season during the ACC era. That should be obtainable considering the Tar Heels are allowing 394.8 yards a game so far this season, including 5.7 yards per play.
UNC (2-2, 1-0 ACC) is also allowing 25.8 points per game, which ranks 10th in the ACC.
North Carolina’s defense is allowing 172.5 yards per game, which does not bode well against the Tigers’ rushing attack. Led by the 2018 ACC Player of the Year, Travis Etienne, Clemson is averaging 247.0 rushing yards per game.
To break that down even further, Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) is averaging a league best 6.6 yards per rush, the Tar Heels are giving up 4.6 yards per carry. In other words, it potentially could be a big afternoon for Etienne and the Clemson running game.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence could potentially have a big game as well. The Tar Heels are yielding 222.3 yards a game through the air, while allowing their opponents to average 7.2 yards per attempt and complete 64.5 percent of their passes. However, they do have 4 interceptions and have allowed just 4 touchdown passes to this point.
On the flip side, Clemson’s defense seems to matchup well with the Tar Heels as well.
North Carolina is averaging just 25.3 points per game, while the Tigers are giving up just 10.0 points per game. UNC is averaging a solid 418.5 yards per game and 5.9 yards per play, but the Clemson defense leads the ACC at 246.5 yards allowed per game and a league best 3.8 yards per play.
The Tar Heels are only rushing for 156.3 yards per game and averaging 3.8 yards per carry. Clemson is giving up just 94.5 yards per game on the ground and 2.5 per carry.
The best matchup of the day might come between freshman quarterback Sam Howell and the Tigers’ secondary. 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.
The Clemson secondary is just as strong to this point, but Howell will be the best quarterback they have faced to this point. The Tigers lead the ACC with 5 interceptions and have allowed a league best just 2 touchdown passes.
They are also giving up just 152.0 yards per game through the air and 5.6 yards per completion. Teams are completing just 50 percent of their passes.
Where UNC has perhaps the biggest concern is on the offensive line where they have already allowed 16 sacks this year. Clemson’s defense has 16 sacks overall.
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 defensive tackle Jason Strowbridge is listed as questionable, as is safety Myles Wolfolk. Starting cornerback Patrice Rene is already out for the season.
Backup quarterback Jace Ruder is listed as questionable after he suffered a lower extremity injury in his only snap against App State last week. If he can’t go, then the Tar Heels will have to turn to walk-on Vincent Amendola if anything were to happen to Howell.
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