Virginia (3-7) at (18) Clemson (7-3)
Saturday, November 21st, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The Clemson Tigers are set for a critical ACC game against the Virginia Cavaliers in Death Valley on Saturday afternoon.
Virginia brings a four-game losing streak into this contest, and that slide has dropped the Cavaliers to 3-7 overall and 2-4 in ACC play. At one point, the club was 2-0 in conference, so the sudden decline is clearly disappointing. Last weekend, a shaky offensive performance led to a 14-10 loss to Boston College. Surprisingly, however, head coach Al Groh seemed happy overall with the effort of his team.
"We made a lot of progress with our team today," said Groh after the game. "I'm proud of the effort the players put into it and the fight they showed. We've been working for 10 months to have a performance like that."
The Tigers can clinch the ACC Atlantic Division with a victory over Virginia. The team is 7-3 overall and 5-2 in ACC play, thanks to five consecutive victories. Last weekend, Clemson cruised to a 43-23 decision over NC State, and four of the five victories during the current run have come by 16 or more points.
Clemson owns a commanding 36-8-1 series advantage over Virginia, which includes a 13-3 victory over the Cavaliers last season.
Virginia is averaging 19.8 ppg to go along with 266.7 total ypg, numbers that reflect the struggles of the offense. The Cavaliers are rushing for only 93.6 ypg at a clip of 2.8 yards per carry, poor figures to say the least. Jameel Sewell is the team's quarterback, and he has completed just 53 percent of his passes for 1,568 yards and six touchdowns with seven interceptions. Sewell has also rushed for five scores, but his average of 1.0 yard per rushing attempt isn't going to scare Clemson, or anyone for that matter. Rashawn Jackson leads Virginia with 420 rushing yards.
Opponents are scoring 24.0 ppg against the Cavs, who are yielding 345.2 total ypg. The defense is allowing 165.6 rushing ypg at an acceptable clip of 4.0 yards per carry, and the unit has intercepted 11 passes while permitting just eight passing scores. Redshirt freshman linebacker Steve Greer is the top tackler for Virginia, as he has made a total of 80 stops. Nate Collins has recorded 66 tackles, and he has five sacks as well.
The Virginia offense was downright terrible last week against Boston College, as the lone touchdown registered by the Cavs actually came on defense. They finished with 298 yards, including only 77 rushing yards on 28 carries. Sewell passed for 221 yards, but he needed 41 attempts to reach that mark and was intercepted once.
"A tremendous effort on his part," said Groh of Sewell, who played through injury. "Under the circumstances, I thought it was one of Jameel's most courageous and best efforts here at Virginia."
It is hard to put much blame on the Virginia defense for the loss to Boston College last weekend, as the unit allowed just 14 points and got seven back on a 58-yard interception return by Chris Cook. Sure, it can be argued that both touchdown drives allowed spanned 70 yards, and that the final touchdown came midway through the first quarter. While those facts are true, holding an ACC foe to 14 points is a victory for the defense.
Clemson's C.J. Spiller may be the nation's best all-around player. Through 10 games, he has rushed for 836 yards and six touchdowns, caught 24 passes for 382 yards and four scores, thrown a touchdown pass, returned three kickoffs for touchdowns and one punt for a score. That's a total of 15 touchdowns that he has been responsible for, and in a season with as wide open a Heisman race as anyone can remember, Spiller deserves to be at or near the top of the list.
Kyle Parker has taken the majority of snaps for Clemson, and he has completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 1,848 yards and 16 touchdowns with nine interceptions. Jacoby Ford is the top receiver for the Tigers, as he has made 39 grabs for 548 yards and four touchdowns. Clemson is averaging 33.0 ppg and 371.2 total ypg, and the offense has generated 34 touchdowns.
Defensively, Clemson is allowing only 299.3 total ypg to go along with 17.9 ppg, numbers that most teams would be proud to boast. The Tigers are permitting a mere 132.0 rushing ypg, and they are allowing 3.3 yards per carry. While there have been some big plays made through the air against Clemson, the pass defense has been tremendous for the most part, as opposing quarterbacks have completed fewer than 50 percent of their throws and have been intercepted 20 times.
DeAndre McDaniel leads Clemson with eight picks, and Rashard Hall has five interceptions to his credit.
Last weekend, Spiller became the first player in school history to catch, run and throw a touchdown in the same game. He also broke the single-season program record for all-purpose yards. Spiller had two touchdowns in the game, and the Clemson offense rolled up 454 total yards.
"I'm just proud of C.J. - another ho-hum day for him," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said after the contest. "I don't know how many other 'first evers' the guy can have."
Defensively, the Tigers allowed 377 yards and three touchdowns to the NC State offense. Obviously, Clemson has played better defense than that, but Spiller and the rest of the offense were so good that it didn't matter.
Spiller is one of the nation's most exciting players, and his Tigers know the importance of this game. Therefore, expect a blowout victory over the Cavaliers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Clemson 37, Virginia 13
11/18 10:40:04 ET