ACC Title Game Preview
#1 CLEMSON TRIES TO STAY UNDEFEATED AS NORTH CAROLINA HOPES TO CRASH FINAL FOUR
Earlier this week, the selection committee did what it could to PREVENT the North Carolina Tar Heels from becoming a big story! They ranked them at #10 in the championship poll...even though the team had been playing GREAT on the way to an 11-1 record. That supposedly will keep UNC out of the Final Four, because Iowa/Michigan State seems like a virtual play-in game.
But...imagine the following...
*Hard charging North Carolina looks fantastic in an upset of #1 Clemson
*Iowa and Michigan State look awful in a naibliter against each other
Imagine the public outrage at a committee that's already seen as being in the pocket of the Big 10 tries excluding one of the hottest teams in the country. Who just knocked off #1 on a neutral field! That would be an instant resume builder. Probably not enough to get in...but it would be a PR nightmare to exclude Carolina if the above scenario happens.
Can UNC spring the upset? Is Clemson really the best team in the country? Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats have to say about the ACC Championship showdown...
Clemson: 12-0 (8-0 in the ACC Coastal Division)
North Carolina: 11-1 (8-0 in the ACC Atlantic Division)
North Carolina's only loss was in the season opener at South Carolina...in a game they absolutely handed away with red zone turnovers. Who knew it would loom so large three months later! The selection committee has publicly implied that it's penalizing the Tar Heels for playing North Carolina A&T and Delaware in non-conference action. True, those are small college cupcakes. But...the Heels did go 8-0 in ACC play. Shouldn't that enough to push them to at least #7 or #8? Jeff Sagarin of USA Today has them playing schedules comparable to Ohio State, Baylor, and Iowa. It's not that far from Clemson...with Sagarin ranking UNC as having the #63 schedule, Clemson the #47 schedule. As handicappers, YOU have to be aware that UNC has a real shot here. Good team on fire!
Clemson: 6.5 on offense, 4.6 on defense
North Carolina: 7.5 on offense, 5.2 on defense
That's +2.3 for UNC and +1.9 for Clemson...which would shift the other way if the schedules had been reversed. How much should you adjust for Clemson playing the tougher schedule? Figure that out and you've probably got the right side here. Worth noting that Clemson does have the better defense against the tougher schedule...which is usually a good indicator heading into a big postseason game.
2015 Turnover Differential
North Carolina: +9
This is a big surprise if you haven't been following the teams closely. It's rare for a team so solidly in the national championship discussion to have a negative turnover differential at the end of the regular season. That speaks poorly of their offensive intelligence, and the playmaking ability of the defense. Remember that Clemson didn't have a particularly brutal schedule themselves. Yet, they lost this basic fundamental category. Nice sleeper stat if you're thinking of making an upset call.
2015 Market Performance
Clemson: 5-7 ATS
North Carolina: 8-4 ATS
Clemson was expected to be good...and those turnovers kept them from playing to consistently high standards all season. We've seen in the past that this is a strike against potential champions too. Typically, the eventual national champion was better (sometimes MUCH better) than the betting markets realized through the season. Clemson hasn't been. Note that North Carolina is 8-3 ATS since that loss to South Carolina. Very strong down the stretch.
Clemson: Deshaun Watson (261-371-10-3223 with 27 TDs)
North Carolina: Marquise Williams (186-288-8-2605 with 18 TDs)
North Carolina is seen as the run-and-gun team because of reputation. But, Clemson actually threw 83 more passes this year. There are a couple of extra interceptions in the mix with that extra passing. If this game is as wide-open as expected...the decision may come down to which quarterback makes one fewer mistake on an important drive. If weather doesn't get in the way, this could be a very entertaining game.
Current Line: Clemson by 5.5, total of 68
The markets see Clemson as the better team...but not by so much that this is "power vs. pretender." There's respect for Carolina...particularly in a high-totaled affair that should be playing right into their wheelhouse. It's not like UNC will be taken out of its comfort zone. Both teams will be happy with this style.
For handicappers...two key questions...how much should UNC be penalized for playing what might only be a slightly weaker schedule....and how much should Clemson be penalized for being the more turnover-prone of the two teams?
JIM HURLEY has been pondering those issues all week. And, his computer programmers have been running simulations around the clock to account for all possibilities. If Clemson/UNC grades out as one of the BEST BETS of the day...NETWORK clients will reap the rewards!
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This will be our last college football preview until the bowls. Some very important NFL games coming up in the NOTEBOOK...
Sunday: NFL TV Preview... Indianapolis at Pittsburgh
Monday: NFL TV Preview... Dallas at Washington
Midweek: NFL TV Preview...Minnesota at Arizona
Next Sunday: NFL TV Preview... New England at Houston
Before we focus on the NFL Playoff race for a few weeks...we have to attack Championship Saturday in college football. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!
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