North Carolina has a talented team this year. They have seemingly come out of nowhere to secure a spot in this weekend’s ACC Championship Game. The question is, can they beat Clemson? All signs point to nyet.
I don’t want to disparage coach Larry Fedora‘s accomplishments this season. Coming off a sluggish 2014 6-6 season, an 11-1 2015 season is an astounding turnaround. Despite a heartbreaking loss to a mediocre South Carolina team in the season opener, the Heels have amassed 11 straight wins, which is the longest streak in the program’s history. In addition, the team is well-rounded with a solid spread offense and a blitz-heavy defensive line. Their up-tempo, nimble offense has hammered opponents all season long by establishing an early lead and holding on to it. The problem is, Clemson has the same abilities, multiplied by ten.
Defensive end Shaq Lawson leads the country in tackles for loss. If the Tigers can slow down the Heels’ ground game they can easily take an early advantage. Clemson’s defense is one of the finest in the country; because of that they can stop the rush and force the Tar Heels into passing situations. The Tar Heels haven’t yet faced a team that can generate the kind of defensive pressure of which the Tigers are capable. QB Marquise Williams threw three interceptions during the South Carolina game, and the Gamecocks don’t have the defensive power that Clemson does. The Tigers’ pass defense has the best opponent completion percentage in college football.
Clemson’s offense is also loaded with talent, including Heisman candidate QB DeShaun Watson. Watson is ninth in the country in total yards per game. He combines that with a wicked aim — his accuracy is over 70 percent. The speed of receivers Artavis Scott and Deon Cain boggles the mind. In the end, though, it will be the defense that wins this game, and Clemson’s defense is savage. The Tigers are one of the most complete teams in the country, because they have depth on both sides of the ball. This North Carolina team is definitely one to watch and will definitely be a contender next year. For now, though, Clemson isn’t going anywhere.