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A border battle of conference rivals. Previewing the UNC v Clemson game

On Saturday when the North Carolina Tar Heels take the field against the Clemson Tigers, they will have business on their mind. They will need a win and a loss by Louisville against Miami to have a shot at getting to the ACC Championship Game. For the part that they can control, the Tar Heels will look to have Drake Maye lead their team against a Clemson team that has struggled this season to find its footing. Clemson will look to build its momentum to finish the season strong and head into their bowl game on a winning streak.

For the game, the Tar Heels enter with the most potent offense in the conference averaging 521 yards and 40 points per game. Clemson despite not having the typical season we have seen is still averaging 408 yards and 30 points per contest. The defenses for the teams have been strong, just not consistent with Clemson having allowed 21 points per game to Carolina's 25.5 points per game. So who has the edge? Let's take a look at some key areas of this border battle game.

Broadcast Info - Border Battle

Date/Location: Saturday, Nov 18th, Clemson, SC

TV: ESPN Kick off at 3:30 EST

Call: Bob Wischusen, Robert Griffin III

Quarterback - Drake May vs Cade Klubnik. With Maye, the Tar Heels have been a high-scoring offense actually improving their scoring output by five points per game over last season. This season, Maye has been stellar throwing the ball deep (20 or more yards downfield) averaging 19 yards per attempt and 12 scores. He's shown that last season wasn't a fluke for his doubters and continued to show solid arm strength and solid athletic ability to make plays with his legs (391 yards rushing and eight scores). For Clemson, Klubnik has been inconsistent this season. He has shown flashes and the ability to lead the offense he has thrown for 2,243 yards and 18 scores, he has also thrown seven interceptions. Edge - Tar Heels. Drake Maye continues to improve and has shown better consistency to push the ball downfield. His athletic ability helps separate him from other quarterbacks as he is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

Wide Receiver - Tez Walker vs Beaux Collins. For the Tar Heels, Walker has been the catalyst for the offense. He has the size to win the contested passes, and the strength to not only win the battle but break tackles and gain yards. Despite missing the first five games, he has still managed to tally 600 yards and six scores on the season. For the Tigers, it's Beaux Collins, the big-bodied receiver who provides a solid pairing to Will Shipley on the Tigers' offense. Edge - Tar Heels. The supporting cast around Walker is stronger as teams have to account for Maye a lot more than Klubnik.

Running Backs - Omarion Hampton vs Will Shipley. How these two runners perform is going to be a highlight for me with both being exciting to watch. Both players are dynamic runners and can change the game. For the Tar Heels, Hampton has improved in every offensive category over last season. He leads the ACC Conference in rushing with 1,236 yards (second in the country) and touchdowns with 13. For the Tigers, Shipley has been fun to watch, and frustrating if your team is playing against Clemson. He has been a Swiss army knife for Coach Sweeny lining up as a running back but also as a receiver. His physical approach is an unexpected sight for someone who comes in at 5'11" and 205 pounds. Edge - Tar Heels. As much as I like Shipley and what he has done while at Clemson, I have to give the edge to the Tar Heels and Omarion Hampton. Hampton's play style and build are similar to Shipley although Hampton is 15 pounds heavier. He has made his living this season running between the tackles to gain his yardage.

Defense - Cedric Gray vs Jeremiah Trotter Jr. This matchup looks to be a great one to watch. While Trotter has been an anchor over the years on the Tigers' defense and has brought an intensity to that side of the ball in the same manner that his dad played in the NFL. Trotter is on pace to equal if not pass his best season ('22) in every statistic. He's a ball hawk at linebacker who can cover sideline to sideline and shows a physicality in his tackles. With the Tar Heels, Gray has led the team in production with 96 tackles (second in the conference) following up an outstanding season in 2022 when he had 145 tackles. Both will look to lead their teams to wins on Saturday. The supporting cast will play a big role in this contest, with Ruke Orhorhoro and Nate Wiggins helping provide Trotter and the Tigers' defense with playmakers and disruptors on every level. Kaimon Rucker and his 8.5 sacks and Alijah Huzzle in the secondary will look to do the same for the Tar Heels.

Prediction - In a game that's closer than expected, the Tar Heels prove too strong earning the win by three points.


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