Clemson should be rested and refreshed coming off an early-season bye, and can now shift its focus to a rematch of the 2019 ACC Championship Game with Virginia. The Tigers (2-0, 1-0 ACC) made short work of the Cavaliers last season in Charlotte and have opened as 29-point home favorites.
While Clemson is returning much of its offensive production, Virginia is having to replace quarterback Bryce Perkins (33 touchdowns) with southpaw Brennan Armstrong. Armstrong threw for 269 yards in Virginia’s opening-game victory over Duke, but he’ll be facing a different beast, altogether, when he squares off with Brent Venables’ defense, Saturday. The Tigers are surrendering just 1.5 yards/carry and 6.5 points/game through two weeks.
The new faces on Virginia’s offense impressed Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, “Quarterback (Armstrong) played with poise and played well when they needed him to …. Their offensive line is one of the best in college football and they did a great job of possessing the football and moving the chains. They’re building their program the right way.”
Clemson may have clobbered Virginia, 62-17, last season, but offensive coordinator Tony Elliott thinks the Cavs’ defense has added some wrinkles since December. Elliott specifically pointed to the way Virginia shifts linebacker Noah Taylor to disguise coverages and better use his talent, “I see (Noah) Taylor moving around a lot. He really took advantage of the offseason. A lot of communication in the secondary, too. There are some veterans back there. They like to blitz you a lot and they can stress you.”
Both coordinators also addressed how they are keeping their units focused and not overlooking opponents they have dominated in the past. While Clemson was enjoying an off-week, Mississippi State toppled LSU in Baton Rouge and Kansas State shocked Oklahoma in Norman.
Offensive tackle Jordan McFadden shared how Clemson guards against a similar fate, “Coach Swinney always reminds us, you can get beat on any weekend. For us, it’s about coming to work and getting 1% better every day. We know, no matter who you are, on any given day, you can get beat.”
Clemson and Virginia are scheduled to kick off from Death Valley at 8 p.m., Saturday.