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The ACC Championship live blog: Clemson annihilates Miami and is likely your No. 1 Playoff seed

For the third year in a row, the Tigers are ACC champs.

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Miami Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Fourth quarter

Clemson’s got this game very well in hand at 38-3. We’ll update this post as the game concludes, but the No. 1 Tigers will probably stay No. 1 when the College Football Playoff selection committee announces its four-team field on Sunday.

Clemson 38, Miami 3, 3:29. Sure, why not? Here’s the world’s saddest field goal:

Miami did that on fourth-and-short at the Clemson 6, down 38 points in the last game of the year. Good to see!

Clemson 38, Miami 0, 13:12. Clemson has lifted starting quarterback Kelly Bryant and replaced him with five-star true freshman Hunter Johnson. The Tigers will coast to the finish line. (They also have lots of QB talent, with more on the way in 2018.)

Third quarter

Clemson 38, Miami 0, 0:00. The Tigers will play in the Playoff for a third consecutive year. Their title defense is alive and well.

Clemson 38, Miami 0, 1:01. Deon Cain caught a 27-yard rainbow from Kelly Bryant.

Before that touchdown, this:

Clemson 31, Miami 0, 1:56. Clemson’s Kendall Joseph picked off a tipped Malik Rosier pass and rumbled 37 yards to the Miami 13. This is still an epic blowout.

Clemson 31, Miami 0, 3:17. Touchdown, Tavien Feaster.

Also, yeah: Clemson has a 31-0 lead. Don’t tell any Ohio State fans that.

Clemson 24, Miami 0, 6:00. Clemson has the ball again after a tip-drill interception by Ryan Carter. Miami appears in some danger of not scoring any points tonight, though the Canes have finally gotten over 100 yards of total offense.

Clemson 24, Miami 0, 7:57.

Miami’s mascot is having a good time, at least.

Clemson 24, Miami 0, 10:00. Clemson’s got a fumble recovery at Miami’s 47. This is getting worse for the Canes, not better.

Clemson 24, Miami 0, 10:14. Miami’s defense held up after a big punt return and a penalty gave Clemson the ball at the Canes’ 44. A sack of Kelly Bryant forced a 46-yard field goal try from kicker Alex Spence, who snuck it inside the right upright.

I want you to look at how close Spence’s kick was to hitting the post.

Maybe a confidence-booster for the kicker:

Clemson 21, Miami 0, 12:50. Miami got the ball on the first possession after halftime. The Hurricanes went three-and-out, culminating with a Dexter Lawrence sack of Malik Rosier. Lawrence and Clemson’s front have been outstanding.

Clemson got a winding, 19-yard punt runback from Ray-Ray McCloud, with 15 yards tacked onto the end of it because of a facemask call. That facemask might’ve saved a touchdown, but Clemson’s got the ball at Miami’s 44 anyway.

Halftime

Some numbers of note at the break:

  • Clemson has 231 yards of offense to Miami’s 64.
  • Clemson’s 5.2 yards per play aren’t huge, but they’re dwarfing Miami’s 2.5.
  • Clemson’s run 44 plays in 17:40 of possession time, compared to 26 plays in 12:20 of clock time for Miami. The Tigers have controlled the ball and the game.
  • Malik Rosier, the Miami quarterback, is struggling for a second-straight week. He’s 6-of-12 for 27 yards and hasn’t been a positive factor at all.
  • On the other hand, Clemson’s Kelly Bryant is a sparkling 15-of-20 for 164 yards.
  • Miami’s basically doing one thing well: controlling the Clemson run game. The Tigers are getting just 3.1 yards per carry with one Miami sack filtered out.
  • Clemson’s 7-of-10 on first downs, though the Tigers have failed on three straight.
  • And this wild number that goes back a few years:

This remains a blowout, but Miami did even the quality of play a little bit during the last five minutes of the half. The Canes need a score on the opening possession of the third quarter to create any impression that they’ve got a chance

Second quarter

Clemson 21, Miami 0, 0:00. The Tigers are 30 minutes from the Playoff.

Clemson 21, Miami 0, 1:01. A nice punt by Miami’s Zach Feagles pins Clemson back at its own 1, so the Tigers should chill heading into halftime. Bad injury news for UM:

Clemson 21, Miami 0, 3:35. The teams have settled into a punt-trading festival. Miami’s getting the ball back, after UM defensive end and captain Chad Thomas was shaken up.

Clemson 21, Miami 0, 4:10. After the teams traded punts, Clemson’s got the ball in its own territory with a chance to extend a huge lead before the half.

Clemson 21, Miami 0, 5:53. We’ve reached the point where Miami would probably rage-quit if this were a video game. Clemson’s 7-of-7 on third downs, including a play just now where Kelly Bryant got flushed from the pocket and hit Ray-Ray McCloud just beyond the marker on a third-and-16. That’s Deshaun Watson-like.

Clemson 21, Miami 0, 6:59. Kelly Bryant is 14-of-14 passing for 146 yards. That’s good.

Clemson 21, Miami 0, 10:16. Miami had to punt again to Clemson, which has the ball at its own 15 after a non-muffed fair catch by Ray-Ray McCloud. This could go soon from blowout to blowout.

Clemson 21, Miami 0, 11:18. Miami’s clutch receiver, Darrell Langham, limped off after coming down hard on a run after catch. Physically, Miami is breaking down.

Clemson 21, Miami 0, 12:49. Adam Choice got the touchdown from a yard out on his third try, and the rout is on. Clemson is going to the Playoff barring something wild.

The Tigers have had the ball for 11 of 17 minutes. Total yardage is 180-22.

Clemson 14, Miami 0, 12:52. Timeout, Dabo Swinney, with Clemson facing a third-and-goal at the Miami 1 after a couple of stuffs by the Canes. Another Clemson touchdown in the next two games would make for a probably insurmountable UM deficit.

What these Tigers fans want:

First quarter

Clemson 14, Miami 0, 0:00.

Some good injury news for Miami, at least:

Clemson 14, Miami 0, 0:40. Miami punted again after Malik Rosier just missed connecting with Braxton Berrios on a third-and-long. Zach Feagles’ boot went just 16 yards, the latest in a line of terrible punts he’s had lately.

Here’s one from September that literally went backward.

Clemson 14, Miami 0, 3:02. Kelly Bryant gets loose on a scramble and goes 11 yards for a touchdown. The Canes are injured on defense and losing badly.

Three Canes are already injured: cornerback Trajan Bandy, defensive tackle Kendrick Norton, and linebacker Zach McCloud. That’s in addition to already-out receiver Ahmmon Richards and running back Mark Walton, among several others who aren’t even active for this game. There’s just not a ton left of Miami.

Clemson 7, Miami 0, 3:24. Kelly Bryant to Ray-Ray McCloud for a first down on a third-and-3, and Clemson’s back in the red zone, threatening to go up two scores.

Miami defensive tackle Kendrick Norton is down injured, too.

Clemson 7, Miami 0, 4:15. Kelly Bryant found Ray-Ray McCloud down the seam for 25 yards. McCloud fumbled (his second of the night, the other on a muffed punt), but this one only helped Clemson. The Tigers recovered it at Miami’s 27, more than 10 yards downfield, after a Miami DB tried to scoop it and run. That’s lucky.

Clemson 7, Miami 0, 6:09. Good work by Clemson’s defense to force a field goal try after Ray-Ray McCloud’s muffed punt. Good fortune that Miami kicker Michael Badgley hooked his 46-yard try badly wide left. The Tigers came out just fine.

Clemson 7, Miami 0, 8:39. Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud muffed a punt, and Miami’s in business after a recovery at Clemson’s 37. A huge break and a net gain of 34 yards for the Canes. And you know what that Miami takeaway means.

Clemson 7, Miami 0, 8:49. Miami’s offense looked badly out of sorts in a loss to Pitt last weekend. Not a great start this week, either: three plays, nine yards, and a punt.

Clemson 7, Miami 0, 10:36. A Clemson touchdown run by Travis Etienne opens the scoring. That’s a 10-play, 68-yard drive in 4:24 for the Tigers.

Clemson 0, Miami 0, 13:35. Miami freshman cornerback Trajan Bandy just got helped off the field but appeared to be walking mostly under his own power. Bandy’s been an important part of Miami’s defense this year, and Clemson’s got lots of receivers to cover. If he’s out, junior Jhavonte Dean’s the next guy on the depth chart.

Clemson 0, Miami 0: 15:00.


Preview

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. No team in the country understands this more than the Clemson Tigers.

The defending national champions are now ranked No. 1 in the country heading into the ACC championship game. The No. 7 Miami Hurricanes’ magical undefeated season came to an end after they were upset by Pittsburgh last week, so they will need a big win for any hope of making the CFB playoff. These two teams will meet at 8 p.m. ET on ABC (live stream).

Clemson is fresh off a 34-10 shellacking of South Carolina and has only one loss the entire year — an early season defeat by Syracuse. Clemson will go to its three-headed rushing attack to lead the way against a Miami defense that has struggled defending the run.

Clemson has three backs with over 600 rushing yards, led by Travis Etienne’s 720. No team in the ACC has more rushing touchdowns than Clemson’s 36. Besides Clemson’s proclivity to run the ball, the Tigers are adept at stopping the run. Clemson houses the ACC’s best run defense, allowing the fewest number of yards and touchdowns in the conference. With the ability to both run the ball and stop the run, Clemson is perfectly set up to control the clock in this title game tilt.

The Hurricanes will have to run the ball better than they did last week in their loss to Pitt. Miami ran for a paltry 45 yards on 23 carries for an anemic 2.0 yards per carry average. Malik Rosier has to become more consistent. Rosier leads the ACC in touchdowns and ranks second in interceptions.

When Rosier plays up to his potential, Miami looks like one of the best teams in college football. But when he struggles, it’s impossible for Miami to win. Miami’s defensive line should come ready to maul Kelly Bryant. Miami knows how to get after the quarterback; only five teams in the country have more sacks this season than the Hurricanes.

Time, TV Channel, and streaming info:

  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
  • TV: ABC
  • Stream: WatchESPN.com
  • Odds: Clemson is favored by 10 points

Clemson vs Miami news:

Malik Rosier has been sub-zero cold or hotter than the sun, with no level of performance in between that. Earlier in the year, I called this difference "first half Malik" vs "second half Malik" because his performances varied greatly before and after halftime. As the season has worn on, we've been using those phrases to describe Rosier's play, regardless of when in the game it happens, because Canes fans all know the difference between "first half Malik" (VERY VERY BAD) and "second half Malik" (VERY VERY GOOD) by now.

Miami is playing with house money at this point. If the Canes lose to Clemson, a 10-2 season, a Coastal Division title, and a chance to play at home in the Orange Bowl would be a very successful season by any measure. Fans, players, and coaches would’ve been thrilled with that result when the year began.

The Canes have thrived all year in an underdog role, and it wasn’t a coincidence their worst performance came after being bumped up to No. 2 in the Playoff rankings. Miami should enter the stadium relaxed, willing to take chances, and eager to prove its doubters wrong.

I think Bryant has exceeded expectations, especially since most of us thought he would be replaced as the starter by Hunter Johnson during the year. Bryant is a better runner than even Watson, though he doesn't quite have the pocket presence. He's bigger and stronger, likely faster as well. Throwing the ball he's not as accurate, but he is better at protecting the ball because he knows his limits and sometimes underestimates his ability. He may not wow like Watson did, but he's a well-above-average college QB.

Yeah, Miami's OL is better this year than it has been for a while, but it's not great. The good thing for this group is that they go up against another top notch DL in practice every day, so they're not seeing something they've never seen before. I'm not saying Clemson's DL isn't good -- it absolutely is. But it's in the same elite group as Miami's, so Miami's OL has experience playing against elite defenders up front.

Can Miami’s offensive line show up and stand out?

Miami’s offensive line has done a good job of keeping its quarterback upright, allowing only 22 sacks on the season. The offensive line has struggled more in creating running lanes, however. The Canes rank 10th in the ACC in rushing yards and ninth in touchdowns as a team. (And they’re 52nd in the nation in rushing S&P+, per Football Study Hall.) Travis Homer has played well this season, but Miami is going to require his best game of the year, and he will need his offensive line to open some holes against one of the best defensive lines in the country.

Clemson vs. Miami prediction:

The Hurricanes have been at their best this season when they’ve been doubted and treated like underdogs. This bodes well for the Canes, as not many pundits are picking them to win this game. But Clemson has too much firepower for Miami to overcome. An experienced coach, Dabo Swinney, coupled with a team with depth and playoff experience should be too much for Miami. Clemson should comfortably leave Charlotte with its third consecutive ACC title.