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Clemson Football

Keys to Victory: No. 9 Clemson vs. No. 23 North Carolina

December 3, 2022


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Each week we review the game’s history, three keys to success, and Swanny’s prediction.

The Match-Up:

No. 9 Clemson (10-2, 8-0 ACC) vs. North Carolina (9-3, 6-2 ACC)

After Clemson's six-year streak of ACC titles ended in 2021, the No. 9 Tigers will attempt to reclaim the conference crown and earn their seventh title in eight years when they face the No. 23 North Carolina Tar Heels in the 2022 ACC Championship Game tonight at 8:00 PM.

Clemson vs. North Carolina (2019)

Series History:

  • OVERALL: Clemson leads, 38-19-1
  • HOME: Clemson leads, 20-8
  • ROAD: Clemson leads, 16-11-1
  • NEUTRAL: Clemson leads, 2-0
  • LAST MEETING: Sept. 28, 2019 (21-20, W)
  • STREAK: Clemson, Won 4


We will post players who are out once they are released to the media a few hours before kickoff.

Stat of the Week:

At No. 10/11, Clemson represents North Carolina's first ranked opponent of the 2022 season. The Tar Heels are the only team in the ACC this season not to have faced a team ranked in either the AP Poll or Coaches Poll (as of the time of each game).

Chasing History:

A win Saturday would be Clemson's eighth ACC Championship Game victory since the ACC instituted the conference championship game (and divisional format) in 2005, including a win in a division-free year in 2020. An eighth conference title would tie Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney with College Football Hall of Famer Frank Howard (eight, including six ACC titles) for the most conference championships in Clemson history. A win would also make Clemson the first team in an active Power Five conference to win seven outright conference titles in an eight-year span since Alabama won eight outright SEC titles in nine years from 1971-79.

Key 1: Creative Playcalling

Watching last week’s offensive performance, specifically in the second half, left me more aware of the amount of creativity on offense that exists in college football-- but not at Clemson. I watched countless hours of teams moving the pocket to create passing lanes, utilizing the tight ends, and creating opportunities for success that Brandon Streeter’s playbook is missing. 

I even went back and watched some older Clemson games from the 2014-2017 era, and there was a fresh level of creativity that the offense had at times during Clemson’s climb-- when the Tiger coaching staff didn’t have the horses to simply be considered the better team. To me, that’s what’s missing. Clemson’s too vanilla. The offensive staff is comfortable taking what you give them and uncomfortable dictating the action. They are risk-averse and not risk-taking, and that’s not a good recipe for success. You have to stay creative, and unfortunately, this group hasn’t been all season long.

Key 2: Clean Special Teams

It feels like the last time Clemson was whipped like they were last weekend in special teams took place many years ago, ironically facing Shane Beamer’s father at Virginia Tech. Clemson fumbled twice on return opportunities, sparking South Carolina’s win. Mix in Aidan Swanson’s issues punting the football-- just shy of disastrous-- and you set yourself up to lose.

There are three phases to the game, and South Carolina scored an A, while Clemson took home an F. If the Tigers don’t clean that aspect up tonight-- let’s not forget that’s where things began to unravel against Notre Dame as well-- look for the Tar Heels to hoist their first ACC Championship since 1980.

Key 3: Defensive Pressure

Has there ever been a group of defensive linemen in Clemson history that have collectively had as much talent but produced so little disruption on a consistent basis? I cannot deny that this group has done well against the run, but they’ve left a lot to be desired when it comes down to generating pressure with a four-man front.

The names Wilkins, Lawrence, Ferrell, and Bryant will forever be tied to the disruption of opposing quarterbacks, and this group could have stamped their legacy in a similar fashion, but it hasn’t happened yet. If the Tigers are going to win tonight, the defensive line better get the job done because Drake Maye and North Carolina will throw the football all over the Clemson secondary if there is no pressure created up front.


It would be nice to feel confident about this Clemson team, but I just don’t. Amazingly, had they beaten South Carolina last weekend, they’d probably be heading to the CFB Playoff with a win over North Carolina since Southern Cal lost to Utah on Friday night. The biggest issue is that this team hasn’t looked like a playoff team-- not once.

Fortunately for Clemson, North Carolina’s 9-3 record could have easily been a 6-6 mark as the Tar Heels have played several tight contests throughout the season. This game is probably similar, as I expect this game to be close, with the Tigers just surviving in Charlotte.

Clemson 31, North Carolina 28

Swanny’s Predictions: 

Date 2022 Schedule Predictions Swanny’s Prediction Actual Score ✅ or 

9-5-2022 No. 4 Clemson @ Georgia Tech 31-14 Clemson  41-10 Clemson
9-10-2022 No. 4 Clemson vs. Furman 55-7 Clemson 35-12 Clemson
9-17-2022 No. 4 Clemson vs. La. Tech 38-13 Clemson  48-20 Clemson
9-24-2022 No. 5 Clemson @ No. 21 Wake Fores 38-17 Clemson

51-45 Clemson (2OT)

10-1-2022 No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 10 NC State 34-20 Clemson 30-20 Clemson
10-8-2022 No. 5 Clemson at Boston College 42-17 Clemson 31-3 Clemson
10-15-2022 No. 4 Clemson at Florida State 34-14 Clemson 34-28 Clemson
10-22-2022 No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 14 Syracuse 43-13 Clemson 27-21 Clemson
11-5-2022 No. 4 Clemson at Notre Dame 31-14 Clemson 35-14 Notre Dame
11-12-2022 No. 10 Clemson vs. Louisville 31-17 Clemson 31-16 Clemson
11-19-2022 No. 9 Clemson vs. Miami 38-13 Clemson 40-10 Clemson
11-26-2022 No. 8 Clemson vs. South Carolina 35-13 Clemson 31-30 South Carolina
12-3-2022 No. 9 Clemson vs. North Carolina 31-28 Clemson

= Correct Prediction

Discussion from...

Keys to Victory: No. 9 Clemson vs. No. 23 North Carolina

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