ACC Championship Preview
Clemson Tigers vs Virginia Tech Hokies
Third-ranked Clemson’s goal of making it to the College Football Playoff for a second consecutive year is within reach. They need to take care of No. 23 Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game in Orlando on Saturday before (Enter Contest). The Tigers are trying to win back-to-back ACC titles for the first time since 1987-88. The Hokies are looking for their first conference crown since 2010 and first 10-win season since 2011.
The Tigers have had a singular focus since a 45-40 loss to Alabama in last year’s national championship game and, despite a 43-42 setback against Pittsburgh three weeks ago, they’ve put themselves in position to earn another shot. First-year coach Justin Fuente quickly has revived Virginia Tech following back-to-back 7-6 seasons. Three of the Hokies’ last four wins have been by three points, but they’re coming off a 52-10 rout of rival Virginia on Saturday.
ABOUT CLEMSON (11-1, 7-1 ACC)
Star quarterback Deshaun Watson got off to a somewhat sluggish start this season. He has returned to form recently and threw six touchdown passes against South Carolina, including three to Mike Williams. Over the last four games, Watson has completed 75.5 percent of his passes for 1,298 yards and 12 touchdowns, setting the ACC record with 580 passing yards in a loss to Pittsburgh and tying the conference mark with his six touchdown tosses against South Carolina. Running back Wayne Gallman also has come to life of late. He racked up 273 yards and three scores over the last two games after failing to reach the 100-yard plateau in his previous four contests. The Tigers’ strong defense thrives on getting into the backfield, ranking second nationally in tackles for loss (8.7) and fourth in sacks (3.5).
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (9-3, 6-2 ACC)
The Hokies’ resurgence has been built on a hard-nosed defense. It’s much like the Virginia Tech teams that enjoyed success under long-time coach Frank Beamer. The Hokies are especially tough against the pass and have produced 17 takeaways in their nine wins. The offense is fueled by junior-college transfer quarterback Jerod Evans. He quietly has put up Heisman-like numbers, completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 3,045 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions while adding 713 yards and eight TDs on the ground. Virginia Tech ranks third among Power Five teams in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert just 26.8 percent.