December 5, 2015

Game Prediction - Clemson vs. UNC

The top-ranked Clemson Tigers have played the entire 2015 season for this moment – a chance to play for an ACC Championship.

The stage has never been bigger, and the stakes have never been higher. Can Clemson win its second ACC Championship in four years and punch its ticket to the College Football Playoff?

The last team standing in the way is North Carolina.

KICKOFF: 8:14 P.M.

While Clemson’s defense has struggled at times this season, it’s still ranked in the top 25 in rushing defense, passing defense and scoring defense. The Tigers are giving up 18.8 points per game (16th), 127.67 yards on the ground (24th), and 160.8 yards through the air (4th). However, the Tar Heels will be the most explosive offense Clemson has faced all season, and it starts with quarterback Marquise Williams who is 6-2, 225. Williams has completed 186-288 for (64.6%) for 2,605 yards, 18 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He is second on the team in rushing with 124 attempts for 786 yards and another ten scores. North Carolina will come out and try to establish the run with Elijah Hood, who leads the team in rushing with 192 attempts for 1280 yards (6.67 yards per carry average) and 16 rushing touchdowns. T.J. Logan is another big-time threat in the backfield, (60-372) and is supposed used in a two-back set with Hood. The Heels also have weapons across the board at wide receiver in Mack Hollis, Ryan Switzer, and Spartanburg native Quinshad Davis. The elusive Switzer leads the team with 49 receptions for 627 yards and four scores, but Hollis leads the team in touchdowns with eight.

The Tigers have been good at stopping running backs all season who like to run straight ahead, so expect Hood to have a modest night, but Clemson has struggled with stopping running quarterbacks, and Williams can certainly hurt you with his legs. Defensive ends Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson will have to be careful not to be too aggressive in the pass rush and seal the edge while linebackers Ben Boulware and B.J. Goodson will have to play with gap integrity. Expect Clemson to use safety Jayron Kearse in run support when they can, but corners Mackensie Alexander and Cordrea Tankersley will need to have their best games of the season.

CLEMSON OFFENSE VS. NORTH CAROLINA DEFENSE: Deshaun Watson has been nothing short of spectacular this season, but Clemson’s fate will be determined by the turnover margin. The Tigers have been able to sleep walk through games much of the last couple of weeks while facing inferior opponents and have been able to overcome costly turnovers. That’s wont’ be the case this week. If the Tigers give North Carolina a short field, it will be a long day at Bank of America Stadium. Watson is playing a different level right now and has weapons all over the field including running back Wayne Gallman, tight end Jordan Leggett, and wide receivers Charone Peake, Deon Cain and Artavis Scott.

North Carolina defense is much improved under first-year coordinator Gene Chizik, but their still 106th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 208 yards per game. The Heels are however 19th in passing defense, allowing just 187 yards per game, but how will they do without starting free safety Sam Smiley who is out with a torn Achilles?

SPECIAL TEAMS: This is the only area where North Carolina has a distinct advantage. Ryan Switzer can be an electric punt returner if given the chance, and T.J. Logan is a threat to take it to the house. North Carolina ranks 18th in the country in punt returns, averaging 22.8 yards per return (Switzer is 10th in the country) and have returned two for touchdowns. T.J. Logan ranks 47th in the country in kick return, averaging 31.6 yards per attempt.

Clemson has a slight advantage at place kicker with walk-on Greg Huegel, who has made 21-0f-23 and is perfect in ACC play. Nick Weiler of the Tar Heels has made 18-of-21 with a long of 48 yards.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN: Clemson’s defense has heard all week how they’re not playing well, and the Tigers have heard how they’re going to be upset by North Carolina by all of the national pundits. That chip Clemson played with on its shoulder early in the year? It’s back. North Carolina is going to score because Williams, Hood, Switzer, and Davis are just too good, but it won’t be enough. Clemson’s defense makes enough stops, and Deshaun Watson continues to play like the best player in the country.


Post written by Clemson Girl Sports Bloggess Nikki Hood

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