Out of all the Power Five Conference Championship Games kicking off this weekend, the ACC is the least talked about.
And rightfully so. After all, Clemson’s loss to South Carolina last week took a bad turn on a national scale. The Tigers’ 40-home game winning streak got snapped, and they were also eliminated from Playoff contention.
Now Clemson (10-2) will battle a reeling North Carolina team coming off two-straight losses since clinching a berth to Charlotte. The Tigers fell to ninth in the Playoff rankings and the Tar Heels dropped to 23rd. With neither team competing for a spot in the Committee’s top-four, Saturday night’s matchup isn’t moving the needle on a national scale.
Still, Dabo Swinney’s team has a lot to play for, especially since they weren’t in ACC Title Game last year. The Tigers have an opportunity to climb back to the top of the ACC mountain, but have some wrinkles to iron out along the way. It’s no mystery that DJ Uiagalelei has become a liability again.
The quarterback has thrown five costly interceptions over the past five games. Not to mention Uiagalelei only completed eight of his 29 passes against the Gamecocks. It helps that he has running back Will Shipley in the backfield, who has remained consistent through it all. Shipley has rushed for at least one touchdown in each of Clemson’s last five games.
The Tigers’ vaunted defense that everyone raved about at the start of the season, got manhandled in both of their losses. Clemson is fourth in the league and 22nd in the FBS in total defense. The secondary has been the a weak link. The Tigers are allowing 226.7 yards through the air per game, which ranks 74th in the nation. And Drake Maye will be the best gunslinger Clemson’s defense will face this season.
Although Clemson has had some issues lately, Swinney still has done an amazing job with his staff. Tiger fans must remember that he was operating with two new Coordinators to start this fall. The fact that Swinney has won at least 10 games for 12-straight seasons is nothing short of remarkable. His longevity of success solidifies that he continues to evolve with the game.
Swinney is a jaw-dropping, 7-1 in ACC Championship Games, and has won his last seven appearances. Mack Brown is the oldest coach in the Power Five, and he’s no stranger to this stage. North Carolina (9-3) has nothing to lose and everything to gain in this clash. The Tar Heels are arguably the nation’s biggest overachievers in 2o22, but they’ve earned their right to be in this position.
Regardless of the matter, the ACC was really down this season, and that’s the reason fans aren’t paying much attention to this tilt. That doesn’t mean Swinney can’t rule the conference with an iron fist again with a win. So at the end of the day, the Tigers can still reign supreme over the ACC, and no one can take that away from them.