For the first time ever, the Virginia Cavaliers are ACC Coastal Champions and will look to win their first conference championship since splitting the ACC with Florida State in 1995. To do it, however, the Cavaliers will have to go through the defending national champions and four-time defending conference champion Clemson Tigers. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC.
Here's what you need to know.
Clemson and Virginia last met in 2013
Despite being in the same conference, these two teams virtually never play one another. Aren't divisions fun? I could tell you what happened in that game, but it doesn't matter. Bronco Mendenhall was not the coach of the Cavaliers and none of the players are the same.
Both teams are coming off rivalry wins
Clemson dispatched South Carolina with ease in a 38-3 victory last week. That was the Tigers' sixth straight win by at least 35 points. Virginia, meanwhile, snapped a 15-game losing streak to Virginia Tech in a 39-30 win in Charlottesville. For Clemson, it was business as usual, but it will be interesting to see how the Cavaliers look after such an emotional victory over a heated rival.
Clemson has not lost a game in almost two years
When was the last time Clemson has lost, you ask? You have to go back a long way. The Tigers went a perfect 12-0 this season and 15-0 last season with a full schedule, an ACC championship and two playoff games. To find their last loss, you have to go all the way back to Jan. 1, 2018. The Tigers lost in the College Football Playoff semifinal to the eventual champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. That's a streak of 27 straight games without a loss.
Clemson is a juggernaut
You haven't heard much about Clemson this season which is unusual for an undefeated defending national champion. But while LSU and Ohio State were stealing all the headlines, Clemson was quietly going about its business and dismantling its ACC schedule.
The Tigers rank 4th in the nation in scoring offense (45.3 points per game), 10th in rushing offense (256.4 yards per game), 25th in passing offense (285.3 yards per game), 3rd in total offense (541.8), 1st in scoring defense (10.1 points allowed per game), 11th in rushing defense (106.3 yards allowed per game), 1st in passing defense (126.5 yards allowed per game) and 2nd in total defense (232.3 yards allowed per game).
Again, all of those rankings are national and each is higher than Virginia.
Virginia is Clemson's first ranked opponent since Sept. 7
Before you despair over how good the Tigers have been this season, consider that they have not been tested all that much either. The last ranked opponent Clemson faced was Texas A&M on Sept. 7. The Aggies finished the season unranked with a 7-5 record. There is no question that UVA has had a tougher schedule.
The Cavaliers also boast the same number of wins against ranked opponents, one. Virginia Tech was ranked No. 24 when they came to Charlottesville last week.
Perkins is the top offensive player in the ACC
Most of the focus going into this game will likely be on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence who remains undefeated in his college career. Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins, however, has actually been the bigger weapon this season.
Perkins has more passing yards on the season with 2,949 than Lawrence does with 2,870. Perkins is also a bigger running threat with 687 rushing yards. In total, Perkins is the top offensive player in the conference and ranks 13th nationally averaging 303 yards per game. Yes, context matters and there have been plenty of games in which Lawrence has not had to air out the ball or even play the full 60 minutes. The point is that not all of the top playmakers in this game will be wearing a paw-print helmet.
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