Clemson’s offense enters this weekend’s game against North Carolina with positive momentum following consecutive victories over Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. After struggling with turnovers and red zone efficiency for much of the season, the Tigers have suddenly righted the ship, posting 73 points in the last eight quarters.
This looks a lot more like the unit North Carolina faced in last season’s ACC Championship Game than the one that averaged just 18 points/game in October. Clemson had its way with the Tar Heels in Charlotte last season, cruising to a 39-10 victory in Cade Klubnik’s first start. It was the fifth straight win in the series for the Tigers. UNC hasn’t taken down Clemson since a 21-16 victory in Chapel Hill back in 2010. That UNC club was coached by Butch Davis and quarterbacked by T.J. Yates. UNC hasn’t won a game at Clemson since 2001, when Ronald Curry was under center and John Bunting was stalking the sidelines for the Heels. That game took place nearly two years before Tigers’ quarterback Cade Klubnik was born.
Clemson puts multiple streaks on the line in Saturday’s game against North Carolina. Not only are the Tigers looking for a sixth straight win against UNC, but at 3-4 in conference play, Clemson needs a win to avoid their first losing ACC record since 1998. The Tigers, currently unranked, need to finish strong to avoid missing out on being ranked in the final AP Top 25 for the first time since 2010.
North Carolina, on the other hand, is looking to regain the momentum it had generated early in the season during a six-game winning streak. The Tar Heels have shown cracks in the veneer in recent weeks, surrendering yards by the chunk in consecutive losses Virginia and Georgia Tech. UNC has followed that up with two straight wins, but the first was over FCS Campbell and the second was a double-overtime victory over rival Duke that was playing with a reserve quarterback.
Storylines can shift quickly, however, and late-season narratives hinge on each team’s performance this weekend. North Carolina is still alive for a spot in the ACC Championship Game, provided they win in Death Valley, Saturday. A resurgent Clemson running game stands in the way, with both Will Shipley and Phil Mafah running the ball effectively in recent weeks. Shipley was forced out of the game at NC State with a concussion and Mafah was pressed into taking on a heavier load. The junior from Loganville, Ga., responded by piling up 186 yards in an emotional victory over Notre Dame. With Mafah in rhythm and Shipley fully healthy, the duo averaged 6.18 yards/carry against Georgia Tech. The Heels had trouble stopping the run last week as they surrendered 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Blue Devils’ running back Jordan Waters.
The sportsbooks know what UNC is facing and have installed the Tigers as 7.5-point home favorites. Check out BetMGM North Carolina to stay up-to-date on the best promos as early next year the Tarheel state will be the first of the Carolinas to legalize online sports betting.
Kickoff between the Tigers and the Tar Heels from Death Valley is set for 3:30 p.m., Saturday.