Clemson, North Carolina meets in ACC championship game

By: Mitch Light, Chris Vannini, Nicole Auerbach

Clemson and North Carolina will face off in the ACC Championship Game on December 3rd in Charlotte. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Clemson (7-0, 9-1 ACC) won the ACC Atlantic with a 31-16 win over Louisville.
  • The Tigers had high hopes for the College Football Playoffs after finishing No. 4 in the first set of the CFP rankings, but a 35-14 loss at Notre Dame sent them back to No. 10.
  • North Carolina (9-1, 6-0) won the ACC Coastal with a 39-34 win over rivals Wake Forest.
  • Tar Heels Redshirt freshman quarterback Drake Maye pleads for the Heisman and was ranked No. 3 in last week’s straw poll.
  • Clemson and North Carolina played in the 2015 ACC Championship Game, where Clemson won 45-37 under Deshaun Watson.

backstory

Oregon and Washington stole the national headlines, but North Carolina and Wake Forest played one of the most exciting games of the day. Both attacks looked unstoppable at times, but the game was won on defense when North Carolina intercepted Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman in the fourth quarter, giving the Deacons a two-point lead. That turnover resulted in a short-field goal that ultimately made the difference for the Tar Heels.

Quarterback Drake Maye was brilliant once again for North Carolina. He rarely misses a shot and plays with incredible balance. With his athleticism, he also damages the defense. After seeing Maye in person, it’s clear why he’s being named as a potential #1 pick in the 2025 NFL Draft. — light

What that means for Clemson

After Clemson’s lopsided loss to Notre Dame earlier this month, many people wrote off the Tigers as legitimate contenders for the college football playoffs. I’m not sure if it’s a sure thing, but it’s definitely premature to say Clemson won’t be playing for a playoff spot in the next three weeks. If the Tigers win, they’ll become a Power 5 champion with one loss and at least a couple of top 25 wins.

They’re also a team the selection committee appreciated enough to place them in the top four in the first midseason rankings. Clemson has no margin, but this team still has a chance to play for a national title. And it helps that the Tigers get a good UNC team with a Heisman Trophy contender in the ACC title game; You don’t always get a high profile opponent like this with a real chance to bolster their resume. — Auerbach

What this means for North Carolina

North Carolina was one of the biggest underachievers last season, starting at No. 10 and finishing 6-7. The Heels entered this season with no expectations and are now in the top 15. They have a Heisman contender in QB Drake Maye and an outside shot in the college football playoffs. The Heels are left only to Georgia Tech and NC State ahead of Clemson in the ACC title game.

It’s a long shot, but a potential 12-1 UNC would be up for debate. Maye, meanwhile, threw for 448 yards against Wake Forest and continues to climb the Heisman call. The redshirt freshman has thrown for 3,412 yards and 39 touchdowns with just three interceptions. — Vannini

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(Photo: Jim Dedmon / USA Today)

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