Posted by Chip Patterson
CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: If Clemson's defense can keep North Carolina's drives short, the Tigers will not need much time to wear down the Tar Heels' defense. The defensive unit has suffered injuries all season, and starting linebacker Ebele Okakpu was dismissed on Monday for "conduct detrimental to the team." Clemson's pace and speed can wear down a team's back seven, and that's exactly where the Tar Heels are the most vulnerable. After giving up 291 rushing yards to Maryland, the Tigers defense needs to make a statement and shut down star freshman Gio Bernard. Bernard is currently 3rd in the ACC in rushing (109.57 yards per game), just ahead of Clemson junior Andre Ellington.
NORTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: North Carolina has to figure out a way to get pressure on Tajh Boyd with their front four. The Tigers have too many weapons on the outside for the Tar Heels' secondary, and the best way to slow down that fast offense is with a sack. Jacory Harris exposed North Carolina's weaknesses at defensive back with his career-high 233 first half passing yards on Saturday, and things only get more difficult having to face Sammy Watkins and DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins. North Carolina should be able to move the ball on the ground with Bernard, and keeping that ground game productive will be essential to keeping the game low scoring. Quarterback Bryn Renner has shown the ability to play catch up late in a game, but a shoot-out does not play to the strengths of the Tar Heels.
X-FACTOR: North Carolina's offensive line gave up four sacks for 23 yards against Miami on Saturday, and the Hurricanes were in Bryn Renner's face all day forcing quick throws and ill-timed passes. Dwight Jones is one of the best wide receivers in the ACC, but if Renner does not have time the sophomore quarterback won't have a chance to get him the ball. Clemson's secondary has been good, but is arguably the weakest aspect of their defense. The offensive line must keep Renner's jersey clean in a hostile road environment or the Tar Heels could see the game get out of hand quickly.
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