Retrieve your slide rules. Despite needing assistance from other teams, there is still a possibility for No. 22 North Carolina to qualify for the ACC championship game.
The outcome of the game between Tar Heels (8-2, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) and favored Clemson (6-4, 3-4) on Saturday is crucial as any calculations, tiebreakers, or probabilities become insignificant.
Mack Brown, the coach of North Carolina, stated that only a few individuals have been victorious in that particular place. He also mentioned that no one expects his team to win.
Clemson has emerged victorious in the past five matches against the Tar Heels and is now facing them while they are recovering from a recent setback. North Carolina narrowly defeated Duke 47-45 in double-overtime last week, breaking a two-game losing streak in the conference after losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech.
They have arrived at Death Valley at the perfect moment to witness Clemson’s strong performance in the latter part of the season. The team has won two consecutive games, scoring a minimum of 31 points in each match.
“They’ve reverted back to their old Clemson ways,” Brown stated. “They’re performing like a team that could make it to the playoffs.”
After experiencing four defeats in a single season, Clemson is determined to improve. This is the first time this has happened since coach Dabo Swinney’s second year in 2010.
Drake Maye of North Carolina continues to excel this season, leading an offense that ranks first in the ACC with an average of almost 40 points per game. Maye stands above the rest of the league with an average of 314 passing yards per game. Swinney is thoroughly impressed with Maye’s talents, stating, “He elevates the coaches, the fans, and even the taste of the popcorn,” joked the coach of the Tigers.
During his time as a coach, Swinney took a lesson from Brown on the importance of being open with other staff members who want to gain knowledge from you. Swinney recalled how Brown, who had previously won a national championship at Texas, graciously welcomed the Clemson staff in 2009 and dedicated several hours to addressing any inquiries from his inexperienced peer.
Clemson has maintained an open door policy, except for one exception: “I will not allow (South Carolina coach Shane) Beamer to stay here. That is simply how it is.”
The University of North Carolina will finish their schedule with away games against Clemson and their rival, North Carolina State. After the intense victory against Duke, Brown emphasized the importance of mental toughness for his players to achieve success.
Brown stated that our team needs to have confidence and resilience in order to successfully navigate through the final stretch of the year.
During the game against North Carolina State, Clemson’s running back Will Shipley was rendered unconscious and was unable to play in the following game due to concussion protocol. However, he made a comeback last week during the team’s victory over Georgia Tech and is now prepared to face the Tar Heels.
“I don’t recall much of the NC State play,” he stated. “It’s a bit daunting, but I knew what I was getting into.”
UNC has faced significant difficulties in the final quarter of the past two ACC games in terms of defense, conceding 22 points to both Georgia Tech and Duke.
Brown expressed worries about exhaustion, specifically for Cedric Gray and Power Echols who never leave the game as linebackers. He emphasized the importance of finding a solution to give them some breaks.
“It’s difficult when two key components of your defense are missing,” stated defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. He continued, “We must find a solution to overcome this challenge.”
The Tar Heels have faced challenges in their recent matchups against Clemson. They have not emerged victorious since a 21-16 win at home in 2010. In the five subsequent meetings, North Carolina has been defeated by Clemson, including two losses in the ACC championship game (in 2015 and 2022). It has been 22 years since North Carolina last claimed a victory at Clemson.