ACC CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW CAPSULE
TV: Saturday 7 p.m. CT, ABC
CFP rank: No. 1
Best win: vs. Auburn, 14-6
Worst loss: at Syracuse, 27-24
Offensive stars: Leading passer — Kelly Bryant (2,426 yards, 12 TDs, 6 INT); Leading rushers — Kelly Bryant (164-804, 10 TD), Travis Etienne (97-735, 12 TD); Leading receivers — Hunter Renfrow (50-526. 3 TD), Deon Cain (49-620. 5TD).
Defensive stars: Dorian O’Daniel (95 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss); Kendall Joseph (73 tackles, 4 tackles for loss).
Key team statistics: Total offense — 24 (457.9); Scoring offense — 25 (35.2 ppg); Total defense — 6 (283.3 ypg); Scoring defense — 4 (13.6 ppg).
Dabo Swinney on Miami: “They’re running the football. They’re playing fast and physical on defense. They’ve made plays on special teams. They’re playing complementary ball as a team. They’re well-coached and they look like they’re having fun doing it, too. They’ve had a great year.”
CFP Rank: No. 7
Best win: vs. Notre Dame, 41-8
Worst loss: at Pittsburgh, 24-14
Offensive stars: Leading passer — Malik Rosier (2,798 yards, 25 TDs, 9 INTs); Leading rushers — Travis Homer (137-866, 7 TDs), Malik Rosier (112-408, 5 TDs); Leading receivers – Braxton Berrios (44-574, 9 TDs), Travis Homer (18-229, 1 TD).
Defensive stars: Jaquon Johnson (81 tackles, 4 interceptions); Michael Pinkney (55 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception).
Key team statistics: Total offense — 44 (422.9); Scoring offense –– 40 (31.9 ppg); Total defense — 41 (362.4 ypg); Scoring defense — 15 (18.3 ppg).
Mark Richt on any advantage Clemson might have as defending champion: “Yeah, well, first of all, being used to winning at a high level, being used to being a champion, not only an ACC champion but a national champion, playing in two national championship games in a row, it doesn’t get any bigger than that … Experience is a great teacher. We all know that. We’re just experiencing some things for the first time as a group of coaches and players. It should be an advantage to have lived through those types of moments.”
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
(All times Central)
ACC Championship Game: Miami (10-1) vs. Clemson (11-1), Saturday 7 p.m. CT, ABC
Louisiana-Monroe (4-7) at Florida State (5-6), Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ACC Network
- Clemson (11-1, 7-1): Last Week – W, South Carolina, 34-10. The Impact – If Tigers beat Miami Saturday, Dabo Swinney’s program will be in position to defend its national title and at least make a third straight appearance in CFP semifinals. Clemson, which beat state rival USC for the fourth consecutive year, is favored to beat Hurricanes by 9.5 points in latest Vegas odds.
2. Miami (10-1, 7-1): Last Week – L, Pittsburgh, 24-14. The Impact – Mark Richt’s Hurricanes may have squandered chance of a lifetime after losing on the road to unheralded Pittsburgh. The loss knocked them from the second spot in the College Football Playoff poll to No. 7, so unless UM defeats Clemson Saturday it will have to settle for a regular bowl bid. If they had remained No. 2 and kept the nation’s longest win streak alive entering the ACC title game, the ’Canes y might have been safe even with close loss to Tigers. That setback also was Malik Rosier’s first in college. He completed just 15 of 34 passes for 187 yards, which led him to be pulled for a series.
3. Virginia Tech (9-3, 5-3): Last Week – W, Virginia, 10-0. The Impact – Hokies struggled on offense but excelled on defense, holding rival Virginia to 5 yards rushing. It was third shutout of season for Bud Foster’s unit but first over Power-5 opponent. It was Va. Tech’s 14th consecutive win in series, which covers their ACC era.
4. N. C. State (8-4, 6-2): Last Week – W, North Carolina, 33-21. The Impact – Nyheim Hines rushed for a career-best 196 yards, including touchdown runs of 54 and 48 yards, to give him more than 1,000 yards on the season. The win over UNC was only second in last five games but it was eighth overall, elevating Wolfpack’s status in bowl pecking order. It also may have made it easier for Dave Doeren to turn down a chance to interview for the Tennessee coaching job.
5. Louisville (8-4, 4-4): Last Week – W, at Kentucky, 44-17. The Impact – Lamar Jackson and his teammates avenged a stunning loss at home to rival Kentucky last season by taking care of business in dominating fashion on the Wildcats’ home field. The 2016 Heisman winner even provided an emotional lift when he and UK linebacker Jordan Jones got into a scuffle that nearly ignited a brawl. Jackson had 216 yards passing and 156 rushing to likely assure another trip to New York as a Heisman candidate.
6. Wake Forest (7-5, 4-4): Last Week – L, Duke, 31-23. The Impact – Quarterback John Wolford finished regular season with school record 3,417 yards of total offense and will have a bowl game to add to that total. After 4-0 start to season, Demon Deacons have struggled to maintain any consistency, winning only three of last eight games. They did excel at ball protection, finishing with plus-7 turnover ratio for season.
7. Boston College (7-5, 4-4): Last Week – W, Syracuse, 42-14. The Impact – Freshman running back A.J. Dillon assured that B.C.’s turnaround would continue, scoring three touchdowns and finishing with 193 yards rushing. Steve Addazio’s team has won five of its last six games and will have a chance at winning eight games in a bowl.
8. Florida State (5-6, 3-5): Last Week – W, at Florida, 38-22. The Impact – Jimbo Fisher finally took the hint and accepted the job at Texas A&M on Friday. FSU fans had grown tired of his refusal to say he was even considering Aggies’ job when all reports out of College Station indicated he was ready to sign on the dotted line. It means Fisher won’t be on the sidelines Saturday for Seminoles’ monumental clash with Louisiana-Monroe, a game that was postponed because of Hurricane Irma and only rescheduled after FSU realized it might need a guaranteed sixth win to preserve its bowl eligibility streak of 36 consecutive years. The win over Florida extended FSU best-ever streak to four years.
9. Virginia (6-6, 3-5): Last Week – L, Virginia Tech, 10-0.44-28. The Impact – Despite being blanked by Hokies, quarterback Kurt Benkert set school’s single-season passing record with 3,026 yards to move past Matt Schaub (2002). Benkert is also first UVA QB to surpass 3,000 yards in a season. Despite losing last three games, Cavs are headed to a bowl game for the first time since 2011.
10. Duke (6-6, 3-5): Last Week – W, at Wake Forest, 31-23. The Impact – Blue Devils won consecutive games for first time since opening season 4-0 to secure bowl eligibility. Before beating Georgia Tech and Wake Forest back-to-back, David Cutcliffe’s team had lost six straight. It should earn Duke a bowl berth for just 13th time. The good news is that Blue Devils’ defense is steadily improving. Despite the losses, Duke has held opponents to fewer than 25 points in six straight games and 10 of 12 games this season.
11. Georgia Tech (5-6, 4-4): Last Week – L, Georgia, 38-7. The Impact – Five weeks ago the Yellow Jackets were in decent shape in terms of earning a bowl berth with four wins, but lost four of five games to close the season, including a home loss to rival Georgia. Since winning 11 games in 2014, Paul Johnson’s Techsters are just 17-19 in the past three seasons. Expect staff changes, particularly on defense, after Georgia Tech allowed three of its last four opponents to score at least 38 points.
12. Pittsburgh (5-7, 3-5): Last Week – W, Miami, 24-14. The Impact – There will be no bowl game for the Panthers, but they did win three of their final five games, including a stunning upset of second-ranked Miami that shook up the College Football Playoff scenario by ending the nation’s longest win streak of 13 games. Freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett, getting his first start, ran for two touchdowns and passed for another.
13. Syracuse (4-8, 2-6): Last Week – L, Boston College, 42-14. The Impact – The highpoint of the season for Dino Babers’ team was its Oct. 13 upset of defending national champion Clemson. But instead of feeding off that feel-good moment, Orange lost its last five games, including the last two by a combined score of 98-24 to Louisville and Boston College. Receivers Steve Ishmael and Erv Phillips combined to set ACC record with 194 receptions between them. Phillips and Amba Etta-Tawo set old mark for receptions by two teammates (184).
14. North Carolina (3-9, 1-7): Last Week – L, at N.C. State, 35-21. The Impact – Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels were showing signs of life after winning previous two games, including winning at Pittsburgh two weeks before Panthers upset Miami. But all that was forgotten with road loss to Wolfpack. It ended a streak of four years in which the road team had won in the series.
(Predicted winners in bold caps)
MIAMI 23, Clemson 21
FLORIDA STATE 38, Louisiana-Monroe 23
Last Week: 5-4
Overall: 79-27 (74.5%)