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ACC Championship Game Set Up to Be a Classic

The Clemson Tigers and UNC Tar Heels will meet Saturday in Charlotte in the ACC Championship Game. A College Football Playoff berth is on the line for the Tigers, while the Heels can cause a ruckus and a debate with a win.

Dr. Pepper ACC Championship Game

Bank of America Stadium

Charlotte, NC

December 5, 8 PM, ABC

(10) North Carolina Tar Heels 11-1 (8-0 ACC) vs. (1) Clemson Tigers 12-0 (8-0 ACC)

Line: Clemson -4.5, Over/Under: 67.5

No Florida State. No Virginia Tech. One loss. 75,000 fans.

Saturday will mark just the third ACC Championship Game in its eleven years that won’t feature either FSU or VA Tech. Clemson will make its third appearance in the game, while UNC will play for the title for the first time.

Championship Saturday

Out of the Power Five Conferences who host a title game, the ACC and Big Ten Championship games look like the best, most intriguing games of the weekend.

No matter the outcome of the ACC, the College Football Playoff will be impacted. Clemson would likely lose its spot in the final four, unless chaos happens beneath them.

UNC may only have a shot at spoiler in the ACC championship, as they have just now cracked the top ten in the penultimate CFP Poll.

Ohio State can sit back and watch their Big Ten brethren slug it out in Indianapolis in the closest projected matchup of the week. Iowa and Michigan State come in ranked 4 and 5, respectively, in this game. The spread is now MSU -3.5 with an over/under of 51.

UNC and Stanford might need Iowa to go ahead and complete that perfect season they’re flirting with, and hand MSU a second loss. Whoever wins the Big Ten is in the final four, so the teams below just need a team with equal losses to somehow fall behind them.

Teams In:

  1. Oklahoma
  2. Big Ten Champ
  3. ?
  4. ?

Oklahoma has all but locked their spot up in the CFP by winning the Big 12. The Big Ten champ moves in with a win. Two spots are open for roughly six teams with an outside chance of squeezing in.

If one were to power rank conference championship games this weekend, that typically high-profile SEC Championship Game is shaping up to be a clunker. Alabama seems likely to win by just showing up. Florida has slept walked to one of the most uninspiring 10 – 2 campaigns in history. The recency effect of their 27 – 2 embarrassment at the hands of the Florida State Seminoles puts them in a hole even before the game in the Georgia Dome has kicked off. For the record I say Alabama 24 – Gators 0.

ACC Matchup

The ACC Championship Game features two top ten teams for the first time in its history, with both teams ranked a combined eleven. There is one loss to speak of between Clemson and Chapel Hill and that happened all the way back on September 3.

UNC’s opponent that day, South Carolina, just gave Clemson much more of a game than anyone expected, losing to the Tigers 37 – 32.

Both Clemson and UNC played befuddling games against the Gamecocks, and let a bad team hang in with them longer than expected. In the case of the Tar Heels, their red zone turnovers torpedoed them in their opener and cost them a perfect season.

Other common opponents for the Tigers and Heels were Wake Forest, NC State, Georgia Tech, and Miami (FL).

Both teams decimated Miami, got in a shootout with NC State, handled Wake, and beat a Georgia Tech squad that was the biggest underachiever in the conference (maybe FBS).

Predictions and Final Thoughts

If both teams play their best ball, then Clemson will make short work of the Heels. Clemson is better statistically, physically, and by the eye test. However you slice it, the Tigers have the edge. But don’t tell that to North Carolina.

UNC has played the hand it was dealt, which did include two FCS teams. They have overcome the weird South Carolina game, and feel like they can score with anyone.

I think that UNC will keep pace with the Tigers. UNC may even have a first quarter lead if they can ride their wave into this one. Deshaun Watson will be the difference in the game. UNC has playmakers, but I think Clemson has the same, and a better defense.

The Tar Heels have turned their defense around from a season ago, but don’t seem to have the shut down ability that is required to hold Clemson down.

I think it’s a barnburner, and the best game of the weekend. Clemson holds off UNC 48 – 44.

Here is my unabashed hope for this game. As a lifelong fan of the ACC, and having attended a title game, two Continental Tire Bowls, two Meineke Car Care Bowls, and two Belk Bowls, needless to say I’m rooting for this to be a good game.

If UNC winning means the ACC gets left out, then so be it. I hope these two channel Cam Newton in his home stadium, and entertain the heck out of everyone watching.

Marquise Williams and Watson can put on a clinic in front of a prime time audience, and perhaps get Watson to New York for the Heisman Ceremony where he belongs.

Across the country I hope Stanford’s Christian McCaffery can cement his spot in the Heisman race in Levi’s Stadium with a kickoff that’s not past East coasters’ bedtimes.

Alabama’s Derrick Henry is all but locked in to represent the SEC in New York, with FSU’s Dalvin Cook another outlier. It’s been a running back’s world, and quarterbacks just live in it this season, and I hope the players who have put on a show thus far this year get one more chance to shine in their conference title games.

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