CHARLOTTESVILLE, V.A. (WVIR) - The No. 23 Virginia football team will be playing in the ACC Championship game for the first time in program history Saturday night, when the Cavaliers kickoff against Clemson in Charlotte, NC.
The Tigers are no strangers to the title match, as they are looking for their fifth-consecutive conference championship.
No. 3 ranked Clemson has all the advantages on paper.
For the Wahoos to win, UVa head coach Bronco Mendenhall says his team will have to continue to be unconventional.
“Anything we can do that would break a trend we’ve either had through the course of the year, or what the trend of that moment, or situational football might mean, we just simply acknowledge that, and try to do the opposite, as a starting point, rather than the adjustment,” says Mendenhall.
Virginia has needed to make a lot of adjustments in the defensive backfield, after senior Bryce Hall was lost for the season due to injury.
Mendenhall says, “We were at the top of the league in almost every category, defensively, prior to him getting hurt, and our pass defense currently ranks 11th in the ACC. You can just put, ‘Because of Bryce Hall,’ right next to that.”
“They’ve had to be creative," says Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. "They’ve had to move some people around. They still get a lot of pressure on the quarterback, though. They have 43 sacks, I believe, to our 35, so they’ve done a good job. They’ve just had different people have to wear different hats.”
Clemson had the No. 1 scoring offense in the ACC this season. The Cavaliers were second, and first in time of possession, which helps out the defense.
Swinney says, “They bend a little bit, but they don’t break a lot. They’ve given up some yards, but they’ve done a great job on third down, and they’ve done a great job on 3rd down offensively. They stay on the field, and they get off the field.”
Mendenhall adds, “Those are two statistics that rarely blend, that you can lead in time of possession, and be first or second in scoring. Most of the time it’s one or the other. We’re able to hold on to the football a long time, and score, which is ideal for our program at this time.”
The Cavaliers will be heavy underdogs, as Clemson is favored by more than four touchdowns.
The Tigers haven’t lost a game in nearly two years, as the defending national champions are on a 27 game winning streak.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 PM in Charlotte, NC.