North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) rolls into the end zone for a touchdown as North Carolina State linebackers Payton Wilson (11) and Drake Thomas (32) trail during the second half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

UNC Set to Battle Clemson for ACC Football Title

The Clemson Tigers will be meeting the North Carolina Tar Heels Saturday in Charlotte to decide the ACC title. Both teams are coming off of tough losses last week, but the Tigers and Tar Heels have a chance to rebound by hoisting the championship trophy. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.

The Quarterback War

The Tar Heels have one of the Heisman frontrunners at the helm of their offense. Drake Maye has been no short of sensational, and he is one of the main reasons the Tar Heels are playing in this game. He leads the team in both passing and rushing yards and has a crisp 35-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His 3,847 passing yards are the fourth most in the nation. Maye was just named ACC Player of the Year, and he’s the first Tar Heel to earn the award since Lawrence Taylor in 1980.

On the other sideline, there is former five-star recruit DJ Uiagalelei. He was expected to turn a corner this year, but he’s not been as explosive as Clemson fans might hope. He shows flashes of greatness and makes some unbelievable throws, but he’s been quite inconsistent.

In the Tigers’ 31-30 loss to South Carolina on Saturday, his stat line was thoroughly unimpressive. He threw for a measly 99 yards and recorded an interception. His 27.5% completion percentage was atrocious. Uiagalelei will need to be on point Saturday if the Tigers’ offense hopes to offset Drake Maye’s firepower. However, there has been speculation regarding how much freedom head coach Dabo Swinney will give his quarterback after his performance last week.

Keys to Victory

North Carolina has relied on their explosive offense, especially through the air, throughout the season. Drake Maye is surrounded by talented receivers, including Josh Downs, who has tallied just shy of 1,000 yards this year. The individual matchups between UNC receivers and Clemson defensive backs will play a major role in deciding the winner of this game. If the Tar Heels can create separation downfield, their outlook is promising.

When the Tigers have possession, look for a different offensive dynamic. With Uiagalelei struggling lately, Swinney and the Tigers may turn to the rushing attack. Sophomore running back Will Shipley has 1,092 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground, so expect a heavy dose of him. Offensive production on this side of the ball will boil down to who wins in the trenches. If Shipley can have success early, it will open up easy passes for Uiagalelei downfield.

Both of these offenses have the ability to stretch the field and strike from any distance. The explosiveness of both of these units will make for an exciting ACC Championship.

About Steven Hieneman

Senior Sports Media/Business Administration dual major at the University of Florida, ESPN Gainesville WRUF sports correspondent.

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