ACC CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
By Al Curtiss
Two of our correspondents, Al Curtiss and A.J. Curtiss, will be heading to Charlotte tomorrow to witness first-hand the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game. The 2017 Atlantic Division champion, as well as the defending ACC and National Champion, Clemson Tigers will be making their third straight appearance in the title contest. They will be taking on the upstart Miami Hurricanes who emerged at the top of the 2017 Coastal Division standings.
Both Al and A.J. have given their reason below why they believe their particular team will emerge victorious. Al touting Clemson and A.J. singing the praises of Miami. Are they right? Will find out tomorrow evening so see you at the TV at 8 pm.
CLEMSON – Al Curtiss
Seasoned Tigers Will be Too Much For Rising Canes
CHARLOTTE, NC — Dabo Swinney’s final message to his crazed Clemson Tigers will be this on Saturday Night: “You are the defending national champions. You are the number 1 team in the nation. Go play like it!”
When (11-1) Clemson confronts the (10-1) Miami Hurricanes in the ACC Championship Game this Saturday, their mission will be simple – Dominate the line of scrimmage and keep that damn Miami turnover chain in its box.
When it comes to dominating the line of scrimmage, Clemson’s depth and talent should give them the upper hand on Saturday night, despite both teams being statistically equal in the trenches.
Clemson has recorded 40 sacks, while Miami has 39 (one less game). On the offensive side, both squads have only allowed 22 sacks all season. Yet, with all four starters—DE’s Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, and DT’s Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins all expected to go high in the NFL draft, Clemson has the dudes to get it done.
And, while Clemson also maintains a slight upper-hand when it comes to defending the run and running the ball, it will be turnovers that will play the biggest role in Saturday night’s championship tilt.
Miami leads the nation in +/- turnover margin, with 17 in the plus side. The Canes have recovered 12 fumbles and recorded 17 pics in their first 11 games, while only losing the ball 3 times on fumbles and tossing 9 interceptions. On the other hand, Clemson is ranked 51st in turnover margin with only a plus 3 rating. The Tigers have recorded 16 turnovers, recovering 4 fumbles and snagging 12 interceptions, while turning it over 13 times, (6 fumbles and 7 interceptions).
These numbers tell the story of games played, not the story of players who will be playing, or now not playing in the game.
For Miami, the loss of two offensive studs in the last 7 days will make attacking the Tiger’s D through the air a much tougher challenge. The Canes lost starting TE Chris Herndon for the season in the Pitt game, and then lost starting WR Ahmmon Richards to a knee injury at practice on Wednesday. This means QB Malik Rosier will need to target Braxton Berrios even more than usual. Berrios, a scrappy slot receiver who has hauled in 9 of Rosier’s 27 TD passes this year, could be in for a tough night as he draws more attention from Tiger secondary.
For the Clemson O, look for RB Travis Etienne to have a big game on the big stage. Etienne has only carried the ball 97 times, but he has reached the end zone on 12 of those runs. He continues to play a larger role the Tiger’s offense and has taken some of the load off quarterback Kelly Bryant.
If Bryant and company can keep the turnovers to a maximum of 3 and the Tiger’s D can do their part and keep the turnover margin to even or +1 for Miami, Clemson should be able to win the ACC Championship and hold on to the #1 ranking in the CFP.
Both teams are too talented, and both teams have enough exciting players on special teams, for this to be a low-scoring slobber knocker. Look for Clemson to pull away in the 4th quarter when Rosier & company need to throw the ball and that ferocious D-line can pin their ears back and go get him.
Final: Clemson 41 Miami 28.
MIAMI – A.J. CURTISS
Tigers Will Not be Able to Weather the Storm from the Miami Hurricanes
Charlotte NC– Although it has been nearly 20 years since we last saw the Miami Hurricanes enjoy a season like this, they appear ready to finish the job when they take on the number one team in the nation, the Clemson Tigers (11-1) in the ACC Championship game in North Carolina.
This Saturday, at the Bank of America field in Charlotte, these two goliaths will square off for the ACC title and a place in the College Football Playoffs.
Despite the hiccup at Pittsburgh, Canes Head Coach Mike Ritch has Miami on the rise, putting up great back-to-back years. Miami has never won an ACC championship, but this year seems like the storm has settled and the sun will rise for Miami.
If Miami hopes to win their first ACC title, they must keep Clemson QB Kelly Bryant in check. Bryant is coming off a monster night going 23-34, 272 yards, and two touchdowns in a win against in-state rival South Carolina. Shutting down Bryant means getting out the turnover chain early and often, and keeping the Clemson offensive off the field.
The ball-hawking Canes D’ will also need to lock up RB’s Travien Feaste, and Travis Etienne, who have 196 combines carries for 18 touchdowns. Miami ranks 41st in college football team defense standings, giving up an average of almost 400 yards per game. They will surely have to play their best game to beat the talented Tigers.
Keeping Clemson off the field will give Malik Rosier more opportunities. To cage the Tigers from the outset, they need Rosier to have success early and demonstrate the confidence he displayed in their first 10 games. Last week against Pitt the Miami offense put up pitiful numbers, only 14 points, 232 total yards, 4-15 on third down, and only 45 yards rushing. Rosier was benched early in the fourth quarter and was clearly rattled. The Canes offense will need Rosier to strike often and instill confidence in his line, and hit his receivers for consistent yardage. With key players like TE Chris Herdon and WR Ahmonn Richards out for this contest, Rosier is going to need to find other targets. Braxton Berrios, recipient of the Jim Tatum Award as the ACC’s Top Scholar Athlete, is going to have to be a huge target. Miami needs the ball in his hands if they want to drive down the field. The Canes are facing the 12th ranked defense in the country, with all-star defensive line men, so Miami will need to keep Rosier upright. Not only protect Rosier, but move those big men out of the way and establish a run game, so play action pass on 2nd and 3rd down are viable options.
If the Hurricanes can wrap up Kelly Bryant when he gets flushed out of the pocket, they will be in good shape. Recording 39 sacks in 11 games is huge for the Miami defense, and will need to hit Bryant and make sure he is brushing himself off after every pass play. Miami has not won an ACC championship since joining in 2004, but this is a year as good as any. Miami has the talent on both sides to get this game won but it is going to be a challenge. They will need to limit the Tiger’s offensive opportunities and put points on the board on nearly every drive. The prediction here is Hurricanes, they will have some big plays early in the second quarter and then settle in and to keep the Tigers on their heels and playing catch up. Hurricanes 42, Tigers 38.