After dispatching the roosters (Spurs Up means dead chickens y’all) for the 6th straight year, Clemson now makes the two-hour ride up I-85 to the QC to battle the Virginia Cavaliers for the 2019 ACC Championship. This will be the 5th different opponent for Clemson in the ACC Title Game in the last 5 years. In fact, Virginia is the 7th different Coastal representative in the Title Game in the last 7 seasons. Some call this Coastal chaos while others call it balance. What would you call it? To me, the real question is does it really matter who the Coastal rep is? Since the UNCheat game, the Tigers have been extremely rude to their opponents. USuCk keeping the margin of victory to 35 is the best anyone has done. Can the Wahoos from Charlottesville put the sword to Clemson or will the Tigers stamp the Paw on another poor sap?
The Virginia offense lives and dies with Swiss Army Knife Senior QB Bryce Perkins. Perkins has a very strong arm but runs like a Tailback. Add to that, he’s 6’3” and 215 pounds so bringing him down at the point of impact is quite a chore. Perkins does a great job of spreading the wealth to his receivers Joe Reed, Terrell Jana and Hasise Dubois who have 70, 61 and 55 receptions respectively. Jana is the speedster (kinda) while Dubois and Reed are big, physical receivers who love to body up defensive backs to create space. This will be a challenge for Clemson Corners Derion Kendrick and A.J. Terrell. The Wahoos will run a bunch of RPOs with several designed runs for Perkins. Perkins will take the deep shot here and there but the vast majority of his throws are 10 yards in. What Clemson needs to do is box in Perkins and make him stand in the pocket forcing him to go through his progressions. My biggest concern is when Perkins begins to scramble as plays break down. If Perkins is flushed out of the pocket, force him to go to his left because that’s when his completion percentage plummets. I expect Clemson to mix up their looks, per usual, but stay in man to man most of the time. The Cavaliers will have to sustain drives to shorten the game (i.e., keep Clemson’s offense off the field) in order to defeat the Tigers. One thing to keep in mind is Virginia’s 44.8% 3rd down conversion rate. If the Hoos go 3 and out a lot, especially early, then this will get ugly really fast. Advantage Clemson.
The Clemson offense continues to be a well-oiled machine. Since halftime of the Louisville game, Trevor Lawrence is 101/135 for 1,390 yards and 17 TDs. Oh yea…ZERO picks. Travis Etienne has been a terror since getting a tongue lashing from Dabo after the narrow victory over the Heels. Tee Higgins seems to have replaced Hunter Renfrow as the go to guy for Trevor. Having said that, I have a feeling that Justyn Ross will play like a man possessed after being left off the All-ACC team. Ain’t it funny how disrespect can bring out the best in a competitor? Virginia’s defense plays a very physical, in your face 3-4 style which can be effective most of the time. The Hoos have 43 sacks on the season so Trevor is going to have to read his keys quickly and get rid of it or he might meet MLB Jordan Mack face to face. From what I’ve seen, they do have a hard time versus teams with a lot of speed which Clemson has by the bucket load. I’m guessing Clemson comes out throwing Saturday night to loosen up the UVA linebackers which should open up rushing lanes for Etienne and Dixon. Plus, the Wahoos D hasn’t been the same since losing Cornerback Bryce Hall in mid-October. Clemson will exploit this at every turn. Advantage Clemson.
Special teams could play a big part Saturday night. Clemson has put ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne at kickoff returner which adds another level of excitement. Virginia’s Joe Reed is #1 in the country in kickoff returns so touchbacks are a MUST for Clemson’s B.T. Potter. Clemson’s Will Spiers continues to be steady Eddie averaging 42.8 per punt. His counterpart, Nash Griffin, is near the bottom of the league at 41.3 yards a kick with only 4 punts going for more than 50 yards. Placekicking is where the Wahoos have a clear advantage. Brian Delaney is 19-23 on the season with a long of 49. Potter is only 10-17 on the season. He made a long kick versus da Cacks but then missed an easy one. I’ve told y’all all season I’m worried about this. I’m running out of nails to chew on. Advantage Virginia.
Clemson hasn’t played Virginia since 2013 and has an overall record of 38-8-1 against the Hoos. To hear folks talk you’d think the Cavaliers have no chance. I think they do but Clemson is going to have to make a lot of mistakes for that to take place. With a playoff spot on the line, I have a feeling Dabo’s message to his troops will be “leave no doubt”. Also, this is Virginia’s first trip to the ACC Title Game while this is old hat for the Tigers. It will be chilly but dry in Charlotte, unlike last year when we all had to swim to and from the stadium. I think it took 6 months for my clothes to dry out. ? Clemson continues to break records with each passing game and they will do so again this weekend. No team has ever won 5 straight ACC titles outright (Florida State shared 2 of their 9-straight back in the 90s). Clemson’s redshirt Seniors will now have an ACC ring for all 4 fingers and the thumb! The folks in the desert don’t give the Hoos much of a chance with the spread sitting at 28.5 with the UNDER at 55.5. I haven’t done this in a while, but I’m going against the spread but taking the UNDER as another team feels the wrath of The Paw!