Clemson Tigers (11-1 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS)
College Football Week 14
ACC Championship Game
Date/Time: Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 8PM EST
Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: CLEM +10/VT -10
Over/Under Total: 57.5
The Clemson Tigers face the Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday in the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers were able to end the season strongly with a big 56-7 win over South Carolina on Saturday, capping off an 11-1 regular season. Their path to the CFP is pretty clearly spelled-out, as they need to win this game to get to the big dance where last year's runner-up looks for big things. It may not have been a great season for Clemson, with some close calls and a lack of overall flair, but they're 11-1 and on the precipice of big things. But standing in their way is a resurgent Virginia Tech squad that won their division this season. They ended the season with a 52-10 win over Virginia and finiushed the regular season with 5 wins in their last 6 games.
Under first-year coach Justin Fuente, the Hokies have seen a lot of things go their way. They have scored wins over North Carolina, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, among others. Without this win, they've still had a good season and would get into a nice bowl game. With this win, their profile would be enhanced significantly. While they might not have the same stakes in this game as Clemson, this means a lot for the Hokies.
Even struggling Virginia Tech teams can be counted on to play some defense. With some offensive support this season, the Hokies' defense has really come together. They have a pass-rush that comes together nicely at times, while having secured 20 turnovers on the season. They deflect a lot of passes and are just generally disruptive. Guys like Ken Ekanem have been adept at getting after the QB, one of the reasons they are 17th in the nation against the pass. They are the 18th ranked total defense in the country. We'll see what they have in store for the high-octane Clemson offense on Saturday. Despite being in the same conference, these teams haven't played since 2012.
The Virginia Tech offense is not a high-flying ACC offense, but they have some nice balance with the pass and run and are a pretty dependable bunch, led by QB Jerod Evans. He has thrown 26 TD passes with just five picks and has somewhat quietly had a big season with over 3000 yards passing. He is also the team's leading rusher with 713 yards and 8 TD runs. Also in the run, they have Travon McMillian and emergent back Sam Rogers, who was over 100 against Virginia on Saturday. Through the air, Evans works with a nice group of ball-catchers, such as Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips, and Bucky Hodges. There are also other role guys that can spring forward with production at a given time.
Clemson has fallen off a lot of people's radar and that could be a mistake. At 11-1, they are still a team that at their best is a handful for any team in the nation. Their only setback was to Pittsburgh, which is upsetting, but a one-point loss is all that separates them from a perfect season. They did beat Louisville, which was one of the biggest wins by any team this season. They've been pretty mediocre against the spread and some unexciting wins have people thinking this is a heavily-depreciated version of the team we saw last season.
Deshaun Watson didn't have the season he had in 2015 and has 14 picks, which is on the high side. And he didn't come close to eclipsing 1000 yards in rushing as he did last season. Still, he put up 3626 yards passing and they are still averaging 40 points a game. Watson still has a slew of different weapons to put to use. Wayne Gallman has scored 14 touchdowns on the ground. Through the air, they got a great bounce-back year from receiver Mike Williams, who has 1114 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jordan Leggett, Deon Cain, and Artavis Scott have also contributed with a lot of production, with the trio combining for 19 scores. Hunter Renfrow and Ray Ray McCloud have also chipped in with some big plays. Just because they lost a little of their edge from last season doesn't mean this offense isn't a handful and a half.
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Clemson has allowed an average of only 17 points per game this season with the 8th ranked defense in the country. Five times this season, they have allowed 10 or fewer points. And only Pittsburgh and Louisville, two high-scoring offenses, were able to do anything significant against this bunch this season. Their pass-rush is among the best in the country, with Carlos Watkins getting after it, along with Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell. In the secondary, safety Jadar Johnson has been a key playmaker with five picks, as the team has secured 22 turnovers on the season while also scoring on occasion on big plays.
This is a dangerous game for Clemson as they try to get into the College Football Playoff. Virginia Tech is tougher than they look on paper or by looking at their results. Clemson has been impressive in spots since losing the shocker to Pitt. Both teams have good defenses, but the Clemson offense has some more firepower and a greater wealth of options. And that offensive flair will serve them well late, as they pull away for the cover.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Clemson Tigers minus ten points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Clemson vs. Virginia Tech game at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!