The ACC Championship has the makings of being the best Power 5 Conference Championship Game on this weekend’s Saturday slate. The ACC Championship Game will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina inside Bank of America Stadium.
The Clemson Tigers will enter this game at 9-1 against the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Clemson’s sole loss on their 2020 resume came in South Bend on November 7th in a double OT loss to the Irish. However, Trevor Lawrence was sidelined due to a positive COVID test so this will be a completely different football game with #16 on the field.
ACC Championship Game – #3 Clemson Tigers vs #2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Saturday, December 19th at 4:00 PM EST
Bank of America Stadium
Moneyline: Clemson (-400) Notre Dame (+310)
Point Spread: Clemson (-10.5) Notre Dame (+10.5)
Over/Under: 60 Points
Time For Revenge
The Clemson Tigers haven’t had much trouble in 2020. The team is 9-1 and has only played in two tight contests all year. The Tigers defeated Boston College 34-28, but lost the following week to the Irish 47-40. The important thing to note regarding these two games is that Trevor Lawrence was sidelined because of a positive COVID test.
One player isn’t everything, but any team with Trevor Lawrence under center will automatically become better. Freshman DJ Uiagalelei started at quarterback in the Boston College as well as the regular season game against Notre Dame. Against Notre Dame, Uiagalelei did more than enough to put his team in a position to win, but the Irish were just a better team that night.
With Trevor Lawrence, Clemson has been pretty hard to stop. Lawrence is 8-0 as the starter in 2020. He has completed close to 70% of his passes for just under 2,500 yards this season. He has also accounted for 26 total touchdowns in 2020. Lawrence is a lock to be the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but he is not done yet and wants to go out as an ACC Champion.
Clemson isn’t a one-sided program by any means. They have the second-ranked defense in the conference behind Notre Dame. The unit is led by LB Baylon Spencer and S Nolan Turner.
Turner leads the secondary and has picked off three passes from opposing quarterbacks this season. In the front seven, there isn’t a better leader than Baylon Spencer.
We Beat Clemson Right?
Didn’t the Notre Dame beat Clemson earlier this season? The Irish did in fact beat the Tigers, but Vegas thinks that Trevor Lawrence makes Clemson a two-score favorite over Notre Dame. Trevor Lawrence does takes Clemson to a level that Notre Dame didn’t experience in South Bend on November 7th, but I guarantee that the Irish feel disrespected at +10.5.
Notre Dame has something to prove. There has been an asterisk next to their Clemson win since they beat the Tigers in double OT. Nevertheless, Notre Dame now has their shot to take down a complete Clemson football team.
Notre Dame has had a great year. The Irish aren’t the best team when it comes to the postseason, but they believe that this is their year to make a run in the College Football Playoff. Notre Dame has had a few more close games than Clemson, but the Irish have still rolled through the ACC in 2020.
The media talks about what Trevor Lawrence means to Clemson, but how about we discuss what Ian Book means to the Fighting Irish. QB Ian Book has been the man for Notre Dame since he made his first appearance in 2017. He has put together a terrific senior campaign to cap off a phenomenal career in South Bend. An ACC title victory over Clemson would establish himself as one of the best to ever do it for the Fighting Irish.
Statistically, Notre Dame has the edge on defense. They’re only giving up 17 points per game which puts them one place ahead of the Tigers. Senior LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has made an impact all over the field in 2020. He has forced three fumbles to go along with his 48 total tackles this season.
ACC Championship – The Matchup
Clemson and Notre Dame have the best two teams in the ACC so it’s fitting that fans will get this matchup to decide the conference. Dabo Swinney and Brian Kelly will make sure their teams don’t make the same mistakes that occurred in the November matchup. This means that America is in for another competitive competition.
The thing that hurt Clemson in November against Notre Dame was their efficiency on third down. The team was only 4 of 15. This is one situation where DJ Uiagalelei looked like a freshman quarterback. Clemson will automatically become better on third down with Trevor Lawrence under center.
Clemson also fumbled three times in South Bend. Senior running back Travis Etienne was responsible for one of these fumbles. Notre Dame only turned the ball over once against Clemson, so they were +2 in the turnover margin.
All Clemson had the last time they played Notre Dame was the aerial attack. The Tigers were only able to rush for 34 yards against the Irish last time out. Notre Dame will need to take away the run once again. This will give them the opportunity to pin back their ears and get after Trevor Lawrence.
Notre Dame needs to do the same thing on offense as they did in November to beat the Tigers once again. RB Kyren Williams rushed for 140 yards and three scores to help the Irish rack up 208 rushing yards on the night. Ian Book threw the ball 39 times for 310 yards with one touchdown.
Notre Dame will need to be phenomenal on offense, shut down the run on defense, and get the Tigers off the field on third down to win. They did this once, but can they do it again? We will find out on Saturday afternoon.
ACC Championship – The Picks
In November, Notre Dame played their best football game and they beat Clemson. Clemson didn’t show up to play football. The offensive line was dominated, the team turned the ball over, and they couldn’t convert on third down.
The Tigers didn’t play close to their potential in the first meeting of the season. Clemson won’t blow the opportunity once again and I don’t believe Notre Dame has what it takes to knock off the Tigers twice in 2020.
Trevor Lawrence will go out as an ACC Champion in his final conference game. This doesn’t mean that Notre Dame is a bad team, but Clemson is just better. I think the Tigers at -10.5 is a realistic spread if they play up to their ability.
If Notre Dame and Clemson both play their best game, the Tigers are two scores better than the Irish. This will result in the scoreboard lighting up.
I’m taking Clemson at -10.5 and over 60 points.
Not only am I previewing the ACC Championship but I will also be previewing all the Power 5 Conference Championship Games on the Knup Sports and Sports 2.0 Network. Make sure to check out these sites and follow me on IG @tannerkern and Twitter @tannerkern_ for game previews, betting analysis, and the best stories from the sports world.