BLACKSBURG, Va. — Thanks to Saturday’s 45-10 victory over Virginia Tech, No. 3 Clemson can now turn its attention to the ACC Championship Game, where it will face No. 2 Notre Dame on Dec. 19 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
The winner will likely get a berth in the College Football Playoff.
The ACC Championship Game will be a rematch of the classic Nov. 7 duel at South Bend, Ind., as the Irish outlasted the Tigers in double-overtime. Clemson, of course, was without several starters in that game, including quarterback Trevor Lawrence, defensive tackle Tyler Davis and linebackers James Skalski and Mike Jones.
Skalski basically did not play at Virginia Tech on Saturday as his groin was sore before the game, while the Tigers lost fellow linebacker Jake Venables to a broken arm and linebacker Baylon Spector.
The good news for the Tigers is they will have two weeks to heal their wounds before having to play the Irish for a second time.
“Hopefully, we can have our team and everybody healthy and ready to go. Obviously, we had a bunch of guys who did not play in that game,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Getting those guys ready to go is number one.
“We will go back and study that tape. We have already done that, but we will go back and study that tape again. A little crossover studying. But we have to, obviously, eliminate the big plays. We gave up a lot of big, big plays in costly situations.”
Despite all of those things, Clemson led 33-26 after a Travis Etienne touchdown with 3:33 to play in regulation. However, the offense could not put the game away when it had a chance to in the final minutes and then the defense gave up a big pass play, which allowed Notre Dame to tie the game in the final seconds.
“We have to do a better job of playing a cleaner football game than what we did last time to have a chance to beat a good team like that,” Swinney said.
When the Tigers face Notre Dame on Dec. 19, it will be Clemson’s eighth all-time ACC Championship Game appearance, adding to their ACC record, and its sixth straight appearance, also an ACC record.
Clemson (9-1, 8-1 ACC) becomes the first Power Five team to appear in six consecutive conference championship games. The only other active conference to have one team represented in six straight championship games is the MAC, in which Marshall qualified for six straight years from 1997-2002, as did Northern Illinois from 2010-15.
The Tigers have won each of the last five ACC Championship Games and six overall under Swinney.
“Six trips in a row to Charlotte, I don’t think anybody has won six conference titles in a row at this level,” Swinney said. “I don’t think anybody has been to six in a row. It is really a unique opportunity for our team and for our program.
“It is one hundred and twenty-five years of Clemson football. It is just a privilege and honor to be a part of this group.”
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