Virginia at No. 1 Clemson
Though Clemson and Virginia played in last year’s ACC Championship Game, the longtime ACC rivals have played just three times in the regular season since Dabo Swinney became Clemson’s head coach in 2008.
As a matter of fact, this will be the Cavaliers’ first trip to Death Valley since 2009, that is the day Clemson clinched its first ACC Atlantic Division Championship under Swinney, a 34-21 victory on C.J. Spiller’s last game in the Valley as a player. Spiller, who will go into the Hall of Fame this year at Clemson, is now a volunteer assistant coach on Swinney’s staff.
Counting the 2019 ACC Championship, Clemson has defeated Virginia four straight times, its longest winning streak in the series since it won the first 29 meetings ever between the two schools.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson
Records: Clemson 2-0, 1-0 ACC; Virginia 1-0, 1-0 ACC
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV: ACCN (Dave O’Brien, Tim Hasselbeck, Katie George)
Radio: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 137, XM 193, Internet 955
Latest Line: Clemson minus-28
- OVERALL: Clemson leads series, 39-8-1
- HOME: Clemson leads series, 20-3-1
- ROAD: Clemson leads series, 18-5
- NEUTRAL: Clemson leads series, 1-0
- LAST MEETING: Dec. 7, 2019 (62-17, W)
- STREAK: Clemson, Won 4
Three story lines
Clemson has won a school-record 23 straight home games and is a national-best 42-1 at home since 2014. Clemson has outscored opponents 1782-548 at home in that span, an average victory margin of 28.7 points per game.
Etienne has scored a touchdown (rushing or receiving) in 37 of his 45 career games, already an ACC record for the most career games scoring a touchdown. With his next touchdown of any kind, Etienne will tie Florida’s Tim Tebow (38 games from 2006-09) and Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon (38 from 2012-15) for the Football Bowl Subdivision record in that category.
Virginia forced Duke to turn the ball over seven times, including five interceptions last week. Both the seven overall turnovers forced, and the five interceptions are FBS single-game highs in the nation so far this season. The five interceptions tie a UVA single-game record, which has been accomplished 10 times so far. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence enters the game having thrown 276 consecutive passes without an interception, the third-longest streak in ACC history. He needs 24 more pass attempts without an interception to record the third 300-pass streak without an interception in conference history.
Virginia’s three players to watch
Lavel Davis, WR: Davis led UVA with 101 receiving yards and two touchdowns on four receptions in his collegiate debut against Duke last week. The 101 receiving yards by the Dorchester, S.C., native is the first time a Cavalier has recorded 100+ receiving yards in his collegiate debut.
Brennan Armstrong, QB: Armstrong became just the second left-handed quarterback in Virginia history to start a game when he did so against Duke. He joins fellow southpaw Jameel Sewell, who started 32 career games for the Cavaliers over the 2006, 2007 and 2009 seasons. Armstrong passed for 269 yards, which ranks No. 2 all-time at UVA among first career starts.
Brenton Nelson, SS: Nelson pulled down a career-high two interceptions in the win against Duke. Nelson, the 2017 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year, returned to action after missing the last six games of 2019 due to an injury that hampered him most of the season. He is one of four FBS players this season to notch two interceptions in a game.
Under Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia has turned the corner and appears to have a program that will consistently contend for ACC Championships and upper level bowl games for years to come. However, to take the next step, Mendenhall knows his program has to prove it can compete with a team such as Clemson. A team that plays at a high level and does it with some of the best athletes and players in the country. Last year’s ACC Championship Game gave Mendenhall an opportunity to show his players how far they still have to go despite playing well in the Orange Bowl against Florida. Though it did not play its best, Clemson still beat the Cavs by 45 points. I expect Virginia to be more competitive on Saturday and keep things interesting for a while. However, Clemson still has too much overall depth, speed and athleticism for Virginia to keep up.
Score prediction: Clemson 49, Virginia 17
–Clemson and Virginia Athletic Communications departments contributed to this story
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