The Turnover Chain, The Champs

Campus Clash- ACC Championship

(7) Miami Hurricanes at (1) Clemson Tigers

Miami: After a big come from behind win against Virginia Tech, they still were being questioned by people. Were they the real deal? On November 11th, they renewed their rivalry with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and they were an underdog entering that football game and look what happened there. For those of you that follow me closely, I’ve often referred to the month of November as “Statement November” in college football and that gives teams to show why they belong in the conversation with the elite teams in the country and talks for a spot in the playoff picture and that was definitely a statement they made over a then third-ranked Notre Dame team. They dominated from the start and closed it out in dominating fashion and it had many people talking. Some went as far as to say they were the favorites to win the national championship! Let’s look this football team now. After the Irish game, they faced Virginia and got back to their early struggles. But as they have done all season long, they found a way to come back and win the game. I’ve stated for a while that they can’t continue to dig themselves into holes early on because it will catch up with them and that’s exactly what happened on Friday when they lost to the Pittsburgh Panthers. They struggled early on and never found their rhythm afterward. Their offense was a mess in Pittsburgh. Malik Rosier completed 44 percent of his passes and Mark Richt even benched him. Let’s not get too carried away about the struggles because they have been one of the talks of college football this year. The swagger is back and when a legendary institution such as theirs is relevant once again, college football is at its best. This is their biggest game of the year against the defending champions.

Clemson: I will sit here and admit that I haven’t really been sold on them too much this year. They’ve looked good and the record does speak for themselves, but there have been times this year when they haven’t looked their absolute best. Their offense was extremely inconsistent at one point. We’d see an up and down Kelly Bryant at quarterback. There were weeks when he looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the country and then, we saw weeks when he’d struggle to get into any type of rhythm and he’d turn the football over and things like that don’t really mean much to some when you have a defense as strong as theirs because they can bail you out and get you out of those tough situations. I’ve seen many of their games this year and after their lone loss to the Syracuse Orangemen, they’ve rebounded in a big way. They’ve run the football more consistently to take the pressure off the young quarterback and their offense is built differently now for their quarterback than it was for Deshaun Watson. They have relied on short and quick passes to complement their rushing attack whereas last year, they were more prolific throwing the football down the field with Deshaun under center. Bryant has played better as of late and the team has relied on the dual-threat playmaking ability of Kelly Bryant along with his shiftiness. The defense is still stifling and this may be the best unit they’ve had under Dabo Swinney. They are strong in all three tiers of the defense. The front four can rush the passer and they do it with consistency. This is the same group that sacked Auburn’s Jared Stidham a total of 11 times in a week two showdown, remember that? They have linebackers that can make all the tackles, move from sideline to sideline and can drop back in coverage to defend the flat of the field and the secondary can also get a pick and neutralize your weapons down the football field. This team is really peaking at the right time and this is an important stretch of the season for them especially if you want to repeat as national champions once again. Everyone will be wanting to play you. You have that target on your back and to be champs, they have to beat the champs.

Miami Player To Watch: Michael Irvin Jr– You read the name right. He’s the son of the legendary pro football hall of famer and on Saturday, he’ll be taking over for Christopher Herndon whos season came to an end after suffering a knee injury. Herndon was a top target of Rosier’s. This young man just needs to play his game and allow himself to make plays and get open over the middle of the field.

Clemson Player To Player: Deon Cain– When Mike Williams decided to go pro, this became his offense and he instantly became the top receiver. He’s a vertical threat down the field but has the speed to go over the middle and make a catch when the team needs to move the chains and convert. I want to see him have an impact on this offense. Make this Miami defense double and triple team you.

Final Analysis: This is one of the many conference title games that grabbed my attention immediately. This is a battle of two teams with good defenses and offenses that are able to score. For Miami, making Kelly Bryant a pocket passer should be your first order of business. Don’t allow him to get out the pocket and use his feet and secondly, put last week behind you and look ahead. This is your biggest game of the year. For Clemson, let the game come to you. I’d try to attack the Hurricanes secondary vertically down the field. Take a page out of Virginia’s playbook and find different ways to move the ball down the field. Their defense doesn’t do well when they don’t get those turnovers.

Prediction: Clemson 38 Miami 24