Clemson vs. North Carolina ACC Championship Picks: This Is for… a Dwindling Number of Marbles

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Clemson and North Carolina meet for the ACC title in the league’s championship game in Charlotte on Saturday night. Nothing against the ACC Championship, which will be awarded to the winner, but both teams hoped that much more would be at stake in the game.

Read on for our breakdown of this game, including the latest NCAAF odds and our free expert betting pick and analysis.

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Clemson Tigers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

Saturday, December 3, 2022 – 08:00 PM EST at Bank of America Stadium

Clemson returns to the game for the seventh time in eight years and eighth in the last 12. No team has been to the ACC Championship Game more, and the Tigers are 7-1 in the game. However, the last six times Clemson has been to the game, it has been ranked in the top three in the nation, and all six times, the Tigers went on to play for the national title in the College Football Playoff.

That won’t be happening this year. Clemson enters the game at 10-2, with as many regular season losses as the Tigers suffered in their previous six trips to the game (against 68 combined wins in those years). Last week’s shocking upset loss to South Carolina ended any lingering hopes of a scenario that earned the Tigers a spot in football’s Final Four.

North Carolina has only been to the ACC Championship Game once before, in 2015. The Tar Heels lost to Clemson, of course, in that game and now return after winning the ACC Coastal Division. UNC wrapped up the Coastal title three weeks ago, and the Tar Heels haven’t won since, losing back-to-back home games to unranked opponents and ending any chances of being a College Football Playoff Cinderella.

So, the ACC Championship Game will still be for all the marbles, it’s just that the number of marbles has been steadily dwindling as both participating teams continue to lose.


Looking to Bounce Back

It’s not often that a team playing for the league title opens championship week by giving its quarterback a vote of confidence, but that’s exactly what Clemson coach Dabo Swinney did on Sunday. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei had a nightmare of a game against South Carolina, completing just 8 of 29 passes for 91 yards and an interception to go with his one touchdown pass.

“Yeah, he’s still the starter,” Swinney said. “He’s not the reason we lost the game. He can’t catch it. He doesn’t play safety. He doesn’t return kicks. So, he’s got his share of things that he can do better. But he will definitely start the game.”

True freshman Cade Klubnik is the backup. He has thrown for just 99 yards in his brief college career, but offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter sounded like Klubnik might see time against the Heels.

“We’re still talking about that potentially,” he said. “DJ is definitely our dude though, there’s no question about it…. We’re still in discussion about how we can utilize Cade. But like I said, right now DJ’s no doubt the starter.”


Looking for Answers

North Carolina was knocking on the door of the top 10, constructing scenarios where the door opened for them to crash the playoffs, and quarterback Drake Maye had emerged as a dark horse Heisman candidate. Then the roof fell in. The Tar Heels lost at home to Georgia Tech as Maye had his worst game of the year, two weeks ago. That trap game came in between UNC clinching the Coastal Division the week before and the annual season-ending rivalry game against NC State.

Carolina couldn’t get out of the trap in time for the State game, however, as the offensive woes continued. Maye had another off night, and UNC was upset at home by the Wolfpack.

While Drake Maye’s struggles have gotten more attention, the state of the UNC defense is the bigger concern. The Tar Heels were already playing without three starting defensive linemen, who went down for the season a month ago. They’ve struggled to find a pass rush since. Against NC State, three members of the secondary left with injuries –Tony Grimes, Storm Duck and Cam’Ron Kelly. They were replaced with two true freshmen and a sophomore.

All three of the defensive starters will be evaluated throughout the week.


The Betting Pick

Clemson has been here plenty of times before and played in much bigger games. The Tigers might be disappointed that the stakes aren’t higher, but they’d still rather head to the Orange Bowl than the TaxSlayer or Cheez-It Bowl, and that means a win in Charlotte on Saturday. Their quarterback uncertainty pales in comparison to UNC’s injury problems in the secondary, which could be just what DJ Uiagalelei needs to find his groove.

If you're a resident of North or South Carolina and are looking to bet on your favorite local teams, remember you can find betting guides on the best North Carolina and South Carolina betting sites at BMR.

NCAAF Pick: Clemson -7.5 (-105) at Bookmaker (visit our Bookmaker Review)

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Clemson -7.5 (-105)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.