North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Clemson Tigers Preview


Date & Time : Sept. 27, 7 p.m.


Most could say last week was a nightmare for North Carolina Tar Heels and Clemson Tiger fans alike.

The Tar Heels suffered arguably the worst defeat in school history at the hands of East Carolina, while the Tigers used the dark magic of “Clemsoning” their way to a loss against a Winston-less Florida State in Tallahassee.

Now both teams will look to rebound on Saturday night, when they meet in Death Valley for what will be the Heels’ ACC opener.

A Rivalry Renewed?

The Tigers and Tar Heels have a long history, even when they weren’t conference foes, having met 55 times since 1897. Clemson leads the series with a 35-19 record against North Carolina, with their most recent win coming at home in 2011. UNC’s last win over the Tigers came the year before in Chapel Hill.

Keys for North Carolina

The Heels are coming off a big loss, and going into one of the most hostile environments in the nation for a rebound game. Coaching will be key here, and this could be one of Larry Fedora’s defining moments at the helm of Tar Heel football. He’s going to have to get his troops ready, and get over last week’s miserable defeat.

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On offense, starting quarterback Mariquise Williams is still progressing, but not quite at the level most expected him to. He’s going to have to play a big game and prove that he can hang against a stingy Tiger defense, or else Mitch Trubisky will see more than his fair share of reps this week.

UNC’s defense will also have to step up. Clemson has weapons in their receiving corps like Mike Williams and Adam Humphries. They’re going to be tough to stop, but if the Heel D can get to the Tigers’ freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson early and often, then things could get interesting in Death Valley.

Keys for Clemson

Same idea for Clemson in terms of keys to winning. Dabo Swinney’s going to have to rally the troops after dropping the ball against the Seminoles in what was one of the best games of the year (so far). Smarter play calls are also going to have to start happening if Clemson wants to win games. No more shotgun formations in short-yardage situations, and maybe have the punter kick the field goals from now on.

Next key, Deshaun Watson.

Sep 20, 2014; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) drops back to pass against the Florida State Seminoles during the first quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The true freshman quarterback will be getting his first career start ahead of an underwhelming Cole Stoudt. Watson’s a dynamic dual threat that has shown impressive progression in just three weeks. With a big, veteran offensive line in front of him, he could be hard to stop given time.

All Clemson’s defense has to do is just keep being that nasty Clemson defense we all saw last week. The front seven might as well have just rented a timeshare in Florida State’s backfield, and Vic Beasley and company are going to want to take some frustration out on UNC. Expect this defense to make plays, maybe even get a pick-six in the process.


Judging by last week’s performances, I’d have to give Clemson the edge here. Granted, they played the top-ranked team in the land without their star player, but they still kept it close. Meanwhile, UNC is limping into enemy territory, and isn’t prepared for what this Tiger team can do to them.

Clemson – 42

North Carolina – 17