In October of 2015, the #12 Clemson Tigers took on the #6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a prime-time match up. The Tigers had a 21 - 3 lead going into the fourth quarter, but the Irish stormed back scoring 19 points. In the pouring rain, it came down to one final play. A two-point conversion attempt with 7 seconds remaining. Notre Dame’s QB, DeShone Kizer, attempted a QB run that was stopped just shy of the goal line. The Tigers won the game 24-22. During the emotional post-game interview, which has become a trademark of Clemson’s Head Coach Dabo Swinney following big wins, he told his players:
“We give you scholarships, we give you stipends, meals and a place to live. We give you nice uniforms [but] I can't give you guts and I can’t give you heart and tonight, it was BYOG, Bring Your Own Guts. And they brought some guts and some heart and they never quit until the last play."
Since that game, Clemson has been bringing their own guts on t-shirts, hats, and on the field. They finished the 2015 regular season undefeated and beat the Miami Hurricanes 58-0 en route to the College Football Playoff. They finished the season 14-1 losing in the National Championship game to the Alabama Crimson Tide. In 2016 they avenged their National Championship loss to Bama and won the College Football Playoffs for their second National Championship in school history. Their only other college football championship was in 1981. This year, the Tigers look to defend their title as National Champions, but they must get past the “inventors of swagger,” the Miami Hurricanes.
While the Canes have been non factors, until this year, since joining the ACC in 2003, their championship pedigree runs deep with five National Championship Rings (83, 87, 89, 91 and 01). Everyone knows Miami’s history, the players, the coaches, the unforgettable moments, and the documentaries. When Coach Mark Richt took over the Canes he made it clear as to what swag is to him.
“When I took this job all they wanted to talk about is Miami getting the swag back. And I said you know what, swag ain’t dancing to me, swag ain’t saying I got a first down, swag ain’t swaying before a kickoff and then they run back to the 45 yard line. SWAG! Is whooping the man on the other side of you. That’s what swag is. SWAG is when the games over we win the game. That’s what swag is. I don’t care what the boys did in the past, the reason why they had Swag was because they won.”
On Saturday night, the ACC Championship has all the makings of a ‘Clash of the Titans’ as these 1-loss teams collide for the ACC crown and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Despite the betting line, Miami is a 9-point underdog, and the narrative in the media, on paper, the #1 Clemson Tigers and the #7 Miami Hurricanes are evenly matched. So much so that even the teams they lost to on the road are only separated by 1 win. The Pittsburgh Panthers (5-7) and the Syracuse Orange (4-8).
Offensively, in the ACC, Clemson is ranked #2 in points per game with 35.2 and Miami is #4 with 31.9. Miami is ranked #6 in yards per game with 423 and Clemson #2 with 458. When it comes to the signal callers, Miami gets the edge in most categories. Miami’s Malik Rosier has a quarterback rating of 138.7% with 25 TDs to 9 INTs. While Clemson’s Kelly Bryant’s rating is 135.8% with 12 TDs to 6 INTs. However, Bryant is the more accurate passer completing 66.4% of his passes compared to Rosier’s 55.3%.
Offense Stats: PPG (Clemson +3.3 points), YPG (Clemson +35 yards), QBR (Miami +2.9%), Pass TD/INT (Miami 2.78/1 vs Clemson 2/1), Completion % (Clemson +11.1%)
Both teams hang their hats on the defense side of the ball and these two units are just as even as the offense. Clemson is #1 in sacks with 40 and Miami is #2 with 39. Miami leads the nation in turnover margin at +17, and in the ACC they are #1 in fumbles recovered and #2 in INTs with 12 and 17 respectfully, while Clemson is #11 and #7 with 4 and 12. While Miami has the edge in turnovers, Clemson ranks #2 in scoring defense (13.6 points per game) and #1 in yards per play (4.34), while Miami ranks #3 in points per game (18.3) and #2 in yards per play (4.77) respectfully.
Defense Stats: INTs (Miami +5), Fumbles Rec (Miami +8), Points allowed (Clemson - 4.7), Yards per Play (Clemson - .43)
With everything so evenly matched, simply put, this prime-time game under the lights on the biggest stage, is going to come down to SWAG vs Guts, who makes the big plays and who fights the hardest. In 2017, we saw the Canes SWAG and Turnover Chain at its peak against the currently ranked #15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and #22 Virginia Tech Hokies. But, we have also seen Clemson’s gutsy play against the #2 Auburn Tigers, #22 Va Tech and #24 N.C. State Wolfpack.
It’s going to come down to a handful of plays, but at the end of the game, there can be only one!