Clemson Tigers vs. Virginia Tech Hokies, Saturday Dec. 3, 6 p.m. ET
The ACC Championship game is interesting for one reason and one reason only - Clemson has a spot in the playoff waiting for them as long as they win. A loss wouldn't necessarily be fatal, but it would make it tougher for them to be part of their second straight playoff. So, to make things easy they just need to win. That should be easy for them, But then they should have beaten Pitt easily three games back as well, and they should have beaten Wake Forest much more convincingly two back.
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So, if the teams play at their best it's not a contest, but we can't be certain that we will see the best that Clemson has to offer because we haven't consistently all year. For Virginia Tech the stakes are much lower. They already have three losses, so even a very impressive win here won't get them to the promised land. The best they could hope for is a New Year's Six game.
Clemson at Virginia Tech Betting Storylines
It would be nice if we could evaluate this matchup by looking at how they have already matched up this year, but they did not have a prior engagement. Looking at the one conference loss each team had is interesting, though. Clemson, incredibly, lost at home to Pitt 43-42 in a bit of a crazy one. The Hokies won by a field goal at Pitt. Advantage Tech. That advantage disappears, though, when we look at their losses. The Hokies lost by two touchdowns on the road at Syracuse. The Orange had a good day, but the Hokies did almost everything possible to lose the game. Two games later Syracuse travelled to Clemson - or at least they were supposed to, but it almost seems as if they never got on the plane. They lost 54-0, and the game wasn't as close as the score. Virginia Tech also lost at Georgia Tech, while Clemson won there by 19. The only other common conference opponent was Boston College, and both teams humiliated them. Add it all up and Clemson has the edge in head-to-head action - for what that's worth.
The weirdest thing about watching Virginia Tech football this year is that, for the first time since 1987, Frank Beamer is not the man in charge. Justin Fuente rode his success at Memphis to this job, and he was very successful in his first year - he overwhelmingly won ACC Coach of the Year, with Dabo Swinney a distant second. We'll have to wait to see what Fuente can do with his own players instead of Beamer's, but to take a team that went 7-6 each of the last two years and get them to this spot is an impressive feat - even if he will be very hard pressed to get another win here. Beamer was a great coach who seemed to be mailing it in the last few years, so this was a welcome change for the program.
Heading into the season I would have imagined that the one certainty here would have been that Clemson QB Deshaun Watson would dominate. It hasn't quite turned out that way. He has had a fine season but not consistently by the standard he set last year. After the first two underwhelming games his completion percentages have been good, but you never quite know if you are going to get a Superman performance - like he had last week against South Carolina - or if he'll make mistakes that the team will have to work hard to overcome - like in the Florida State and Pitt games where the interceptions matched the touchdowns he threw, and the team struggled right alongside him. He likely doesn't need to be at his very best here to get the win, but he can't be making things too tough on his squad.
Clemson at Virginia Tech Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Clemson favored by nine points. Early action has driven that up to -10. More than three-quarters of bets to date have been placed on Clemson, so the line movement isn't surprising, and it seems quite likely that we will see the number move beyond the key number of 10 barring major breaking news.
Clemson is just 1-4 ATS in their last five conference games and in their last five against teams with winning records. They are, however, 5-0 ATS in their last five in December and 7-0 ATS in their last seven neutral-site games. The Hokies are just 1-4 ATS in their last five neutral-site games. Good news for Virginia Tech is that the underdog is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between the teams.
Clemson at Virginia Tech Predictions and Picks
I don't really trust Clemson, but I have no choice but to pick them here. The Hokies just aren't nearly as good as Clemson - in either top-end talent or depth. I don't really believe that Virginia Tech can win if Clemson shows up, so betting on them would mean just betting that they don't lose by too much. I hate doing that unless I have to, and I don't have to here. Clemson to cover in the bet.
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