With nine consecutive seasons with double-digit victories and five straight trips to the College Football Playoff, Clemson has been playing in big games for the better part of a decade.
Now Miami wants to join in on the fun.
The Hurricanes will get that chance Saturday night when they tackle unbeaten and top-ranked Clemson in a primetime, nationally televised game at the Tigers’ Memorial Stadium.
“This is a great opportunity for us to test ourselves against a team that’s very comfortable in these settings,” Miami coach Manny Diaz said. “This is not a big game at Clemson; this is just what they do, you know what I mean? And we’ve got to get our program where it’s the same way.”
Both teams are unbeaten at 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, creating what amounts to the premier showdown in the ACC to date this season. Clemson is ranked No. 1 while Miami is No. 7, making this game the first battle between Top 10 teams at Memorial Stadium since 2016.
The game is expected to feature plenty of offensive firepower. Both Clemson and Miami are averaging more than 42 points, and both feature Heisman Trophy candidates at quarterback — Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Miami’s D’Eriq King.
Lawrence has passed for 848 yards and seven touchdowns this season while also rushing for three scores. He’s thrown 314 consecutive passes without an interception, which is a school record and the third-longest streak in ACC history.
Lawrence hasn’t been intercepted since the first quarter of the Tigers’ win at Louisville on Oct. 19, 2019.
King, a transfer from Houston, has thrown for 736 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 157 yards and another score.
“He’s a great quarterback — he can do it all,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of King. “There’s really nothing he can’t do. He can make all the throws and when he runs it, he’s a running back. He’s got that mindset of a running back, too. You’d better have your big-boy pads on. He’s averaging 5.4 yards after contact, so this is a very physical player.”
Throw in running backs Travis Etienne, Clemson’s two-time ACC Player of the Year, and Miami’s Cam’Ron Davis, and there’s potential for explosive plays and plenty of points.
Yet it may be the Hurricanes’ defense that concerns Swinney the most.
“They’re not sit-and-read guys,” Swinney said. “They’re off-the-ball, in-your-grits-quick guys. They are not sitting around waiting on anything. They are trying to wreak havoc. They are fast and physical at the line of scrimmage.”
Both teams have aggressive defensive units. Since 2017, Clemson and Miami have ranked in the top 18 each season in both sacks and tackles for loss.
Diaz, who is in his second season at the Miami helm, was the team’s defensive coordinator when they lost to Clemson 38-3 in the 2017 ACC Championship Game.
“That situation ate us up a little bit,” Diaz said. “It was a great learning experience.”
Diaz hopes his program has learned enough to at least close the gap on Clemson’s recent dominance. The Tigers have won the two most recent meetings between the teams by a combined 92-3.
“What you see now (at Clemson) is a culture that’s used to winning,” Diaz said. “The leadership of the team has been able to pass it down through generations, and when freshmen come, it’s ‘Hey, this is the way we do things here.’ “
–Field Level Media