Clemson vs. Virginia Tech ACC Championship prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins between the Tigers and Hokies on Saturday in Orlando, Florida.
Clemson vs. Virginia Tech Game Preview
When: Saturday, Dec. 3 – 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
TV Broadcast: ABC
Dabo Swinney’s Tigers (11-1, 7-1 ACC) are coming off of an easy win over South Carolina in Death Valley, as Deshaun Watson tied his career high with six touchdown passes—three to Mike Williams—in a 56-7 win. The Tigers jumped out quickly and never looked back en route to the team’s largest margin of victory in the rivalry since a 51-0 win in 1900.
Meanwhile, the Hokies (9-3, 6-2) used a career-high 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Sam Rogers to help notch a 52-10 win over Virginia—the team’s 13th straight over the Cavaliers. Justin Fuente’s squad didn’t even need the W, as it had its ticket to the ACC title game clinched this past Friday when North Carolina lost to NC State. It will be the Hokies’ first appearance in the title game since 2011.
The last time these teams met was in 2012, when Clemson scored a 38-17 home win. The Tigers recorded three interceptions, including two off of Logan Thomas, while Tajh Boyd ran for two scores and passed for another. All-American wide receiver Sammy Watkins had eight catches for 84 yards.
What To Know About Clemson
The Tigers are set up to earn a berth in the College Football Playoff with a win over the Hokies, as the setback a few weeks ago to Pitt seems to have lit a fire under the Tigers. We have seen uneven play from Swinney’s squad throughout the year, and their playing with fire caught up with them against the Panthers. Oddly enough, that loss seems to have refocused the group. And it could not have come at a better time. The type of play we saw this past Saturday was the dominant nature that many college football observers had expected all season. Nonetheless, if this version of Clemson shows the same desire and killer instinct against Virginia Tech, its opponent in one of the CFP semifinals better watch out.
What to Know About Virginia Tech
Following the Hokies’ win over Virginia this past week, defensive end Ken Ekanem said he thought the performance “was a statement game, to tell Clemson that we’re coming.” Quite the bravado considering that Clemson has looked outstanding the last few weeks, but Fuente’s squad is a confident bunch. To have a chance against the Tigers, the VT defense will need to closely resemble the unit that sacked Miami quarterback Brad Kayaa eight times and repeatedly racked up tackles for loss in an October matchup. That is asking a lot against the Clemson O-Line that operates to protect its mobile quarterback. Running the football with authority will also be needed, although racking up 289 yards on 51 carries as the Hokies did against UVA won’t happen this week. Most importantly, though, signal-caller Jerod Evans has to play like the top JUCO quarterback that Fuente brought in upon his arrival.
Offense: Clemson. Taking nothing away from the Hokies, Clemson is averaging 508.7 yards per contest, and it has a Heisman Trophy contender in Watson.
Defense: Clemson. Again, taking nothing away from VT, the Tigers are giving up just 307.9 yards per contest.
Special Teams: Even. Both teams have kickers who have delivered in tough, clutch spots.
Coaching: Clemson. Fuente was the perfect replacement for Frank Beamer, but Swinney is on the verge of his second consecutive CFP berth.
Intangibles: Clemson. The Tigers know that a win gets them back to the CFP, where they would like to finish stronger this time around following the tough loss to Alabama last season.
Matchup To Watch
Evans vs. Clemson defensive front
Last week against the Cavaliers, dual-threat quarterback Evans threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, which allowed the JUCO transfer to set school single-season records with 26 touchdown passes and 3,752 total yards. If VT is to have any chance to pull an upset, Fuente’s bunch needs a huge game from Evans both through the air and on the ground. He will see pressure from the Tigers’ front, so he needs to be able to avert the rush and pick up yards with his feet as well as deliver big plays down the field with his arm.
Spread: Clemson -9
Over/Under: No Line (as of post)
Clemson vs. Virginia Tech Prediction
Evans and the Hokies will give the Tigers all they can handle, but Swinney has this group on a CFP mission after its slip-up to Pitt at home a few weeks ago. Watson and Co. pull away in the second half, as the Brent Venables defense takes over and shuts down the VT offense.
Clemson vs. Virginia Tech Final Score Prediction: Clemson 38, Virginia Tech 23