CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Top-ranked Clemson visits North Carolina today in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
This will be the Tigers’ (4-0, 2-0 ACC) first trip to Keenan Stadium since 2010. It will also mark the first time head coach Dabo Swinney will face his mentor Mack Brown, who returned to UNC (2-2, 1-0 ACC) for a second stint in Chapel Hill last winter.
“I am excited about competing against Coach Brown. He is obviously one of the best to ever coach the game, and I also think he is one of the best people to ever coach the game. He is a true gentleman,” Swinney said. “He loves his players. He has a lot of relationships from many, many years at many different schools. I think again, he is one of the most respected people in this business.
“He has been a friend to me, so it is exciting. This is not something I thought I would get the opportunity to do, to compete against Coach Brown. So, it is kind of cool that I get a chance to do that and visit with him a little bit before the game.”
Who has the edge in today’s matchup?
UNC’s Sam Howell vs. the Clemson defense: Howell has been the talk of the ACC this season as he has thrown for 1,024 yards in the first four games. The true freshman is completing 64.1 percent of his passes and has 9 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. However, the Clemson defense is holding opposing quarterback to a 6.8 quarterback rating, the best in the FBS. Quarterbacks have thrown 5 interceptions to just 2 touchdowns on the Tigers. Advantage: Clemson
North Carolina’s running game vs. Clemson’s run defense: Javonte 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. Junior running back Michael Carter has 220 yards and is averaging just blow 5.0 yards per carry. However, the UNC offensive line is banged up and will be missing two starters up front today. Clemson’s D-Line has struggled at times against the run, especially against run-heavy teams Georgia Tech and Charlotte. But the Tar Heels’ injuries on the offensive line and the inexperience of two freshmen and three sophomores starting will be no match for the Tigers’ blitzing backers and complicated schemes and their personnel. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s offense vs. UNC’s defense: Clemson’s offense has not looked its best yet, but the Tigers are still averaging 524.8 yards and 42.3 points per game. Running back Travis Etienne is on the verge of having another big game and it might come at the expense of a UNC’s run defense, which is allowing 172.5 yards a game on the ground. It does not help that the Tar Heels are banged up on the defensive line either. Advantage: Clemson
Bottom line: 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.
Prediction: Clemson 45, UNC 17
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