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Miami Hurricanes Football: ACC Championship Game Staff Predictions

Here’s how our SOTU staff sees the ACCCG playing out

NCAA Football: Miami at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The time has come! Your Miami Hurricanes are going to their first ACC Championship game, where they will face the Clemson Tigers.

This game, a defacto College Football Playoff Quarterfinal, will in all likelihood see the winner head to the CFP this season.

With tons of pre-game commentary and analysis already up on the site, we’re convening the group of SOTU contributing writers to give our opinions on how the game will play out.

And here they are kids: our SOTU staff predictions for the ACC Championship game!

Cam Underwood: First of all, let me just say how happy I am to have Miami playing a game of consequence again for the first time in forever. Man, this is a lot more fun than waiting to see which tier-2 bowl game we'll be sent to.

Okay, back to the lecture at hand: I think that Miami has the top end talent to contend with Clemson, but after injuries to Walton, Richards, and Herndon IV, I don't think the Canes have the depth to stay with Clemson the entire game. It won't be 58-0 (thanks for that, by the way; wouldn't be here without you forcing us to FINALLY fire Al Golden), but it won't be a win for Miami either.

Final Score: Clemson 27 Miami 20

Matt Washington: This team has exceeded all the expectations that I had for the club before the season. Saturday will be the 11th straight week in which Miami will have prepped and played in a game dating back to September. Think about this, if someone had told you Miami would be without WR Ahmmon Richards and RB Mark Walton at the beginning of the year you would have thought that the Hurricanes chances of victory would be slim. They have won the close games, blown out opponents that were favored to win, and overcome injuries to key players all season long. I'm not about to write them off as they face their biggest game in what has been a remarkable season.

If Miami can move the ball against Clemson's front-seven, I like their chances to pull out a victory. Granted, Clemson may have the best defensive line in the country, we've seen these ’Canes play up to the bright lights of primetime football. I'm optimistic that should we see the 'Turnover Chain', that not only will the offense have great field position, but that they will also make the most of the opportunity and come away with points.

Score Prediction: Miami 24 – Clemson 21

Justin Dottavio: Miami has to overcome the stumble that was the Pitt game. Losing can refocus a team (think: UF/Ole Miss 2008, or Clemson/Pitt '16). Losing gets you back to details and fundamentals so expect a sharper, more focused Canes team in Charlotte.

That said, Clemson has been there before. They're the top rated team in the country. And they're well coached. Their only loss came with Bryant down. Expect them to play with a confidence Miami doesn't yet have.

I foresee Clemson winning by 9.

Stefan Adams: Listen. I want to believe. I really do. I've been behind the team through the lowest lows of the past few years and just getting to this game is a milestone in of itself, but I don't see an ACC Championship for UM this season. Clemson is incredibly deep and, with a spot in the Playoffs also on the line, the defending national champions have been in this position before. The key to winning this game was always going to be the performance of the UM offense, while the only true advantage Miami had over Clemson on that side of the ball was their weapons in the passing game. Now they don't even really have that with Herndon and Richards going down. I also can't get the images of the Pitt game out of my head; it's like a horror film with the serial killer being Kenny Pickett and the young high school kids being Miami's championship dreams.

At a time where Miami should be peaking, last week established an ugly, ugly floor for this team. The short-handed Canes will have to play a near perfect game to beat this Clemson team and just a few mistakes could make this a blowout. But still, that's why they play the games, right? Berrios, Langham, Thomas, and of course Rosier need the games of their lives, but I have: Clemson 35 Miami 17.

Donovan Hutchins: First, this has been one unbelievable season. I predicted a 10-2 season with us winning the Coastal, but I honestly had us dropping 2 of the 3 games between Notre Dame, FSU and Va Tech. Then, if you told me Mark Walton would be lost in week 4 and Christopher Herndon in week 13 for the season and Ahmmon Richards would be battling injuries all year (now out for season), I would have thought it a miracle to be in this position. But, here we are.

To quote Ric Flair “if you want to be the man, you have to beat the man” and Clemson is the man. They are the defending national champions and #1 in every poll. The Canes are 60 minutes away from shocking the world by winning the ACC and playing in the College Football Playoff. I’m thinking that losing 2 All-ACC talents (RB1 and TE1) and an All-American talent (WR1) is too much for any team to overcome. However, I feel the 2017 Canes have proven they aren’t just “any” team especially when the lights are the brightest, they are an underdog, and they are playing with a chip on their shoulder. I think this game will be close and it will be a dog fight with two great defenses battling. The game will hinge upon Rosier bouncing back from the Pitt game and I believe we will see 2nd half Rosier all 4 quarters. Coach Richt has shown exotic looks in the previous prime-time games and I know he has something up his sleeve to mask the loss of three great weapons. On the other side, Manny Diaz and the crew will force Kelly Bryant into a passer and I don’t think he can win the game with just his arm for the Tigers. I have the Canes winning 24-21 with a late Turnover Chain to seal the game.

Mike Grunewald: I think Miami comes into the ACC championship game with a renewed passion after the deflating loss to PITT and gives Clemson all they can muster. Unfortunately I don't see our Canes pulling this out over the Tigers because of the sheer difference in talent between the two sides. Richt has one recruiting class in (that he and his staff themselves recruited) and Dabo and his coaching staff are well established and have cycled through their own classes a few times. The fact that Miami is ALREADY playing in the Championship game at this point is a boon for the program.

Clemson 35, Miami 17

John Pickens: I’ve written all season about how this feels like a team of destiny, one that responds to adversity and finds a way to win close games. Maybe the Pittsburgh loss was the wake-up call Miami needed.

The Canes defense didn’t have a single player make 1st-Team All-ACC - Clemson had three of the four defensive linemen - Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Clelin Ferrell. Mark Richt and Manny Diaz are surely using that as a motivational tool all week. Miami QB Malik Rosier might frustrate fans sometimes, but I love his composure under pressure. From all reports this week, his leadership and focus has been impressive, bouncing back after the loss to Pitt.

Clemson played a perfect game last week in a blowout win against South Carolina, but struggled to pull away against NCST and FSU in November. If Miami can make a few plays early, this game will be close throughout. We need the Miami defense we saw against Notre Dame to show up on Saturday night. The Canes force 2-3 turnovers, Clemson misses a few field goals, and Miami wins a close one in Charlotte - 20-17. I’ll see all of you at the Rose/Sugar Bowl.

Evan Hadrick: It’s not ideal to enter the biggest game the program has seen in over a decade the way we have, coming off of a loss to 5-7 Pitt, losing our top 2 receiving options to injuries in the last week, and dropping 5 spots in the CFP rankings to #7, but I think all of the factors that made this team and this season special will rise back to the forefront. If there is one thing Miami has done consistently this year, it’s showing up for primetime games where everyone’s watching. Our defense will play inspired, shutting down the run and making Kelly Bryant try to win the game with his arm, and I don’t think that goes well for him against our secondary. I’ll give Miami 3 Turnover Chains, their first ACC Championship, and their first trip to the College Football Playoff.

Miami 24 - Clemson 21

Charlie Strauzer: This is the game CanesFam has been waiting 15 years for. This team is the team we didn't expect so soon given that CMR is only in his second year and many thought the turnaround would take longer. However, we're here and this team has been for the most part, very fun to watch. This team has found ways to win when many said we wouldn't and won close games that shouldn't have been close. Some will say we should be 8-4 not 10-1 given how we've played against inferior teams. Well I say it doesn't work like that, nobody is going to come to us and say "hey, you should've lost more games so we're taking those W's away." Nope, a W is a W is a W and nobody is changing that. Once again the majority is doubting this team and it's ability to bounce back from adversity. Big mistake. Canes win a close one against a very good Clemson squad.

Miami 31 Clemson 27

Mat Scholtec: If I'm judging this match-up logically, the Canes' chances don't look good. The team is coming off an embarrassing loss in which Rosier had his worst career game, and Richards and Herndon have been lost to injury. Miami is facing a defending national champion with a formidable defense on a "neutral" field. I completely understand why Miami is the underdog. But if there's one thing the Canes have done all year is win when they've been written off and thrived when they've been disrespected. So screw logic and believe in the fight and determination of this team. This team has already gone beyond expectations and surprised most of us with a 10-1 record, and I think they've got a few more surprises left. These are the types of games Miami won to become The U, and these are the games that are going to bring The U back.

Canes 27, Clemson 21. Book it.

Phil Wood: From the first time I stepped onto the University of Miami campus in 2010 our football team has brought me nothing but heartbreak. Losses to lesser opponents during a season were not the exception to the rule, but the rule itself. The 'Canes seemed to beat themselves and found the Coastal Division title out of reach long before the final game of the season. But this year, the Cardiac 'Canes persevered and find themselves playing for the ACC championship. In prior seasons, this is a game the 'Canes would get beaten badly in. Every time we would climb the rankings we would take on another ranked opponent and lose in ugly fashion, which then sent our season spiraling out of control. But this season is different. Mark Richt's decision to bench Malik Rosier was questionable at best, but deep down Richt knew that the ACC championship was on the horizon and essentially a win-and-in for the College Football Playoff. Rosier needed a wake up call, and needed to know that if he was going to play the way he did on Friday then he is easily replaceable. Again this year the 'Canes have struggled against lesser opponents, culminating in an ugly loss to a true freshman quarterback making his first start. But when the lights are shining bright and everyone doubts them this 'Canes team shows up and puts a hurting on opponents. Their two "toughest" games of the season were also two of their most assured victories. The 'Canes are a double threat. They can beat teams of badly and milk the clock with a huge lead, but also know how to make a miraculous play when the game is on the line to ensure victory. The loss of Ahmmon Richards could be devastating, but this 'Canes team didn't flinch when they lost Mark Walton and they won't flinch now. I say the 'Canes are happy that Clemson is ranked #1 and favored to win. These are the games the 'Canes play their best in. This is when the swagger really comes out. When it's us against the world, that's when this team focuses and gets the job done. And if you're loving the turnover chain, you're in luck. Because it's going to be heading to the playoffs.

Miami 31 Clemson 28

Derek Acosta: This is officially it, this is the game that can truly put Miami back on the map. This game is set up a lot like the Notre Dame game was a few weeks ago: a strong running team that can control the clock and sit on the ball for an entire game, the type of offense that is supposed to give Miami trouble and neutralize the aggressive style we play. While I think the defense will come to play and really keep Miami in this game, I don’t see how Miami can put up enough points with the loss of Chris Herndon IV and Ahmmon Richards. This will be a close game throughout, but the Clemson offense will eventually wear out Miami’s defense and get a win.

Score prediction: 21-10 Clemson

Silas Tsang: Before the Pittsburgh game, I would have predicted that an undefeated Miami could upset Clemson in a dream game. The principle scenario I envisioned was a close loss to Clemson, and having beaten Pitt, we'd still be in the college football playoff. Fast forward a week and we looked terrible against Pitt in our first loss of the season. Now Richards and Herndon are out for the year. So, along with Walton, that's our three best offensive players who won't suit up against Clemson. Clemson being a team that is basically healthy and playing superb defense and offense. My guess for the ACCCG is that it'll come down to the first few minutes of the first quarter. That'll determine whether Miami will come to play Saturday. Oh and Malik Rosier. If Malik plays well, Miami will be competitive. If there's even a slight lull, or even worse a turnover or two, the game might be a blowout. My hope is a great, close game. My gut says Clemson is the healthier team at the moment.

Clemson 34 Miami 21.

Carter Balderson: If Miami wants to keep this game close, and therefore have any shot at the end of the game, they are going to have to be at their best on defense, especially against the run, and aggressive on offense. Containing Kelly Bryant when he inevitably escapes from collapsed pockets will be major for Miami reducing, or even better, eliminating explosive plays. On offense, the Canes cannot afford a sub-par effort on the ground. If Miami wins, it will likely be through the air (yes, even without Ahmmon Richards and Christopher Herndon), but Travis Homer and the running game will have to be pushing for positive yards each play. In the end, Clemson’s defense (especially the defensive line) will become too overwhelming for Miami to match. The ground game will be slow developing and never gain much momentum. Miami will get a good turnover or two against the Tigers offense, but scoring on those turnovers may be too much. Clemson gets on the board early but doesn’t truly pull away until the fourth quarter. This year, the Canes do not have the depth to keep up with a team like Clemson. I hate to do this, but: Clemson 34 Miami 10.


TL;DR? Here are the predictions again:

Underwood: Clemson 27 Miami 21
Washington: Miami 24 Clemson 21
Dottavio: Clemson by 9
Adams: Clemson 35 Miami 17
Hutchins: Miami 24 Miami 21
Grunewald: Clemson 35 Miami 17
Pickens: Miami 20 Clemson 17
Hadrick: Miami 24 Clemson 21
Strauzer: Miami 31 Clemson 27
Scholtec: Miami 27 Clemson 21
Wood: Miami 31 Clemson 28
Acosta: Clemson 21 Miami 10
Tsang: Clemson 34 Miami 21
Balderson: Clemson 34 Miami 10

That’s 7 predictions that Clemson wins, and 7 predictions that Miami wins. So you can’t call us homers. BUT, as one of the people who picked Clemson to win, I WOULD LOVE NOTHING BETTER THAN BEING WRONG ON THIS PREDICTION!!!!

What are your predictions? Vote in the poll and hop in the comments to let us know.

Poll

What will the outcome of the ACC Championship Game be?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Clemson wins by 8+ pts
    (287 votes)
  • 10%
    Clemson wins by 1-7pts
    (103 votes)
  • 39%
    Miami wins by 1-7 pts
    (399 votes)
  • 21%
    Miami wins by 8+ points
    (213 votes)
1002 votes total Vote Now

Go Canes