It is that time of the year for third-ranked Clemson.
As head coach Dabo Swinney likes to say, the Tigers are now officially in “the championship phase” of the season. With a win tonight at Virginia Tech, Clemson can clinch a sixth straight berth in the ACC Championship Game, which would extend its own record for consecutive appearances in the league’s title game.
The win would also guarantee a rematch with No. 2 Notre Dame in the championship game. The Irish handed Clemson its only loss in the ACC in the last three years with a 47-40 double overtime win on Nov. 7.
Who has the edge? Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va. The game will be televised by ABC.
Clemson’s run defense vs. Virginia Tech’s rushing attack: This is a matchup of strength vs strength. The Hokies lead the ACC, averaging 250.9 yards per game on the ground. The Tigers on the other rank third in the league, allowing just 102.9 yards per game. Virginia Tech will come at Clemson with quarterback Hendon Hooker and running back Khalil Herbert. Hooker has 18 total touchdowns this season. He is the only FBS quarterback to own a pair of 150-yard rushing games in 2020, giving him two of the top eight single-game rushing performances among FBS QBs this season. Herbert is averaging 167.8 all-purpose yards per game and leads the ACC with the second highest avg in the nation amongst players participating in five or more games. He also leads the ACC in rushing yards (924 yards) and is averaging 8.2 yards per carry. Clemson on the other hand has defensive tackle Tyler Davis and starting linebacker James Skalski back in the middle of a defense that is giving up just 2.89 yards per carry and an ACC low six rushing touchdowns. Last week, the Tigers held Pitt to 16 rushing yards on 24 carries.
Travis Etienne vs. Virginia Tech’s run defense: As crazy as this sounds, Etienne has not rushed for 100 yards in a game since running for 149 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers win over Miami on Oct. 10. However, Etienne might have an opportunity to break out once again against Virginia Tech. The Hokies are allowing 189.2 yards per game on the ground and 4.8 yards per carry. They have also given up 20 rushing touchdowns this season. In case you are wondering, Etienne ranks third in the ACC with 12 rushing touchdowns, while Clemson is second in the league with 25 rushing scores overall.
Trevor Lawrence vs. Virginia Tech’s defense: Lawrence returned for the first time in nearly five weeks last Saturday, and lit Pitt up for 403 yards on 26-of-37 passing. The Heisman candidate leads the ACC in passing yards per game (319.4), completion percentage (70.6) and passer rating (178.4). The Hokies rank 12th in the ACC in passing defense, yielding 273.8 yards per game. Teams are completing 63.1 percent of their passes and 7.7 yards per attempt, which both rank near the bottom of the conference.
Bottom Line: Clemson will wear its famous orange pants as it tries to clinch a spot in the ACC Championship Game for a sixth straight year. The Tigers have a lot to play for as they rank third in the College Football Playoff ranking. Look for Clemson to try and establish its running game early and often. The Hokies have struggled to stop the run, allowing 189.2 yards per game. As a defense, they are giving up 32.6 points and 450.1 yards per game. In case you are wondering, the Tigers are averaging 46.1 points and 512.2 yards per game on offense.
Score prediction: Clemson 47, Virginia Tech 17
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