ACC Championship Game
No. 1 Clemson (11-1, 7-1) vs. No. 7 Miami (11-1, 7-1)
Dec. 2, 8 p.m. ET, Charlotte
HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE:
Clemson: Going off the most recent rankings, the Tigers have the best win of anyone in the top 10 after beating Auburn in Week 2. But that game didn’t matter for the purposes of the ACC since the Auburn Tigers are in the SEC. So let’s cut to the chase.
Clemson lost on the road to Syracuse but that defeat hasn’t mattered because the Tigers handled business against Louisville and NC State. And also against Florida State, a preseason top-five team that fell flat on its face this season and will have a new coach in 2018.
Thanks to losses by Alabama and Miami in the final week of the regular season the Tigers ascended to No. 1 in the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings.
Miami: Miami was going to be ahead of Clemson if it wasn’t for pesky Pitt. The Hurricanes entered the final week of the regular season with a berth in the ACC Championship Game already ensured and at No. 2 in the CFP rankings.
Then Pitt happened. Miami’s offense was impotent most of the day and Pitt sealed the upset in the second half. Miami had gone 7-0 in the ACC before that Pitt game, which came almost exactly 10 years after a 5-7 Pitt team upset No. 2 West Virginia to throw the BCS into chaos.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB Travis Etienne, Clemson: If Clemson needs a big play in the run game, it typically comes from Etienne. He’s the team’s leading rusher with 720 rushing yards and has 12 touchdowns, also the most on the team. The combination of Etienne and Tavien Feaster is a nice 1-2 combination for a team that heavily relied on Wayne Gallman the past two seasons.
Etienne’s 12 touchdowns have been spread nicely throughout the season as well. He’s scored in nine of the 11 games he’s played in — and has broken a 20-yard or longer run in seven of those 11 games.
QB Malik Rosier, Miami: Here’s where we’re going to talk about the headline. Miami entered the week already without star running back Mark Walton, who has been sidelined because of a severe ankle injury.
Running back Travis Homer has done fine in Walton’s place. But there’s going to be a lot more focus on the run game thanks to two injuries that happened in the run up to the title game. Both tight end Christopher Herndon and wide receiver Ahmmon Richards will miss the rest of the season thanks to knee injuries. Herndon is the team’s second-leading receiver while Richards is No. 3 in both yards and receptions.
Their absences put more pressure on Rosier to find secondary targets outside of WR Braxton Berrios. Rosier didn’t play well against Pitt and even got briefly benched. He needs a star turn Saturday night.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: With the Big Ten title game (and the Mountain West championship) on at the same time, many college football fans will be frantically flipping back and forth Saturday night. Those wearing out the previous channel buttons on their remote should stay to watch Miami’s defense try to contain Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant and keep the game close. This is a Miami team that’s thrived on turnovers this season. Without forcing two or three on Saturday, the Hurricanes don’t have much of a chance.
WHAT’S ON THE LINE: A spot in the College Football Playoff. Clemson stays No. 1 with a win and heads to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. If Miami wins, the Hurricanes sneak in to the top four, likely at either No. 3 or No. 4. If it’s at No. 3, then Miami may be traveling across the country to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. The last time the Hurricanes played there they destroyed Nebraska.
Nick Bromberg: Clemson 31, Miami 17
Sam Cooper: Clemson 31, Miami 21
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