23 Virginia Cavaliers (9-3) vs. #3 Clemson Tigers (12-0)
College Football: Saturday, December 7th, 2019 at 7:30 pm ET (Bank of America Stadium)
Line and Odds: Clemson Tigers -28.5 Over/Under: 57.5
Free ESPN College Football Picks Clemson Tigers vs. Virginia Cavaliers
The Virginia Cavaliers are headed to Charlotte to play in the ACC Championship Game. This is something that would have been nearly unimaginable a few years prior. Before the arrival of coach Bronco Mendenhall, the Cavaliers had 4 straight losing seasons under Mike London. In Mendenhall’s 1st season as UVA’s coach, they went 2-10. Mendenhall slowly rebuilt the program, getting better every year. They went 6-7 in Year #2 and 8-5 in Year #3, going to bowls in back-to-back seasons. However, they were still falling short of ACC Coastal championship contention. That was until this year when UVA went 9-3 overall and 6-2 in conference. They secured their spot in the ACC Title Game by beating their rival, the Virginia Tech Hokies, 39-30. It was the first time UVA won the Commonwealth Cup over VT since 2003.
Virginia ranks 50th in the nation and 5th in the ACC in offensive efficiency. The star of the Cavaliers’ offensive attack is Bryce Perkins. Perkins ranks 3rd in the ACC in passing yards, averaging 245.8 passing yards per game. UVA’s offensive coordinator, Robert Anae, is part of the Mike Leach coaching tree, so he would much rather pass the ball than run. This Air Raid attack features 3 main wide receiver weapons. WRs Hasise Dubois, Terrell Jana, and Joe Reed all average over 50 receiving yards per game. Perkins also happens to be the team’s leading rusher. He has 11 rushing touchdowns and averages 57.3 rushing yards per game in addition to his passing. Virginia’s running back, Wayne Taulapapa, is more a short yardage, change-of-pace, battering ram. Taulapapa averages 41.6 rushing yards per game, but he leads the team with 12 rushing touchdowns.
The Cavaliers rank 51st in the FBS and 6th in the ACC in terms of defensive efficiency. Mendenhall’s defense ranked 4th in the ACC in total defense, giving up 336.5 yards per game. Virginia ranked 4th in the ACC in scoring defense and 5th in yards per play allowed. They allow 23.5 points per game and give up 5.27 yards per play. LB Jordan Mack totaled 7.5 sacks on the year, ranking 6th in the ACC in sacks. His fellow LB Noah Taylor chipped in 6.5 sacks, ranking 9th in the ACC. The Cavs’ defense is 4th in defensive 3rd down percentage and 7th in defensive red zone touchdown percentage. UVA’s best defensive player, CB Bryce Hall, got hurt in the middle of the season. Despite the loss of their All-American DB, Mendenhall has been able to field a middle-of-the-pack defense in the ACC.
Dabo Swinney has put his team in position to complete one of their annual goals. The Clemson head coach sets the same 5 goals every season, “win the opener, win the division, win the state championship, win the ACC, and win the closer.” Step 4 is well within reach for this dominant Clemson team. The Tigers have won 27 games in a row, and a win against the Cavaliers would secure Clemson’s spot in the College Football Playoff. The defending national champions have been in a foul mood ever since they beat North Carolina 21-20. There was a lot of talk in the media about how much Clemson was struggling and that they didn’t look like the same team from last year. Since then, the Tigers have gone 7-0 straight-up and 6-1 against the spread, beating opponents by an average of 41.7 points per game.
The Clemson Tigers offense ranks 5th in the FBS and 1st in the ACC in terms of offensive efficiency. QB Trevor Lawrence has lived up to the hype this season, ranking 6th in the FBS in QBR. Lawrence ranks 1st in the ACC and 10th in the FBS in 9.1 yards per pass attempt. His backfield mate, RB Travis Etienne, was named ACC Player of The Year for the 2nd consecutive season. Etienne averaged 8.25 yards per carry and scored 16 rushing touchdowns, leading the ACC in both categories. He ranked 2nd in the nation in yards per carry and 9th in rushing touchdowns. Lawrence’s two favorite targets are WRs Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. Higgins averages 75.0 receiving yards per game and 20.9 yards per catch. Ross averages 58.9 receiving yards per game and 12.5 yards per catch. Higgins has scored 10 receiving TDs, while Ross has scored 7.
Clemson’s defense has been even more dominant than the offense, ranking 1st in the nation in defensive efficiency. The Tigers rank highly in every important defensive statistic. They give up 10.1 points per game, making them the #1 scoring defense in the FBS. The Tigers rank 1st in passing defense and pass yards per attempt allowed. They allow 5.2 yards per pass attempt, and 126.5 passing yards per game allowed. Clemson ranks 2nd in the nation in both total defense and yards per play allowed, behind Ohio State. Clemson is 9th in the FBS in rush yards allowed per carry, giving up 2.91 ypc. In addition, the Tigers defense ranks 7th in 3rd down defense and 5th in red zone TD defense. The star of the defense has been junior linebacker Isaiah Simmons. He won ACC Defensive Player Of The Year and he’s a finalist for both the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Award. Simmons has totaled 83 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks. DB Tanner Muse ranks 2nd in the ACC with 4 interceptions on the season, while fellow DB A.J. Terrell made the All-ACC first team defense.
Cover The Spread 365 Betting Trends
Virginia is 4-2 ATS in their last 6 games.
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Virginia’s last 6 games.
Virginia is 5-1 SU in their last 6 games.
Clemson is 18-4 ATS in their last 22 games.
Clemson is 27-0 SU in their last 27 games.
The total has gone UNDER in 8 of Clemson’s last 11 games.
ESPN College Football Scores Virginia Cavaliers vs. Clemson Tigers
I’m taking the Virginia Cavaliers +28.5 in this matchup. Betting against Clemson has been a scary proposition lately, but I’m prepared to do it here. Clemson has been destroying everyone they’ve faced in recent weeks, but I believe UVA is better than any team Clemson has seen since Texas A&M. I simply think 28.5 is too many points here. Virginia is a well coached team and they are deserving of their #23 ranking. This feels like a 38-13 game to me, where Clemson wins but fails to cover. There is a hidden edge for Virginia that will not get talked about in the lead-up to the game. Virginia has the far superior special teams to Clemson. UVA ranks 8th in special teams efficiency, while Clemson ranks 121st. UVA will be able to tilt the field and establish a field position advantage. Clemson is the much better team, but I have too much respect for UVA to give away 4 touchdowns (especially since I’m getting an extra hook). Take Virginia and the points here.