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ACC Championship Roundtable

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Brian: Last week for one quarter it was straight dominance then for the final three it was a lot of rivalry weirdness. Still UNC got the job done. As good as the offense has been all season the turnover problem over the past two games is concerning. Marquise Williams has four of the five fumbles over the last two games and threw an ill-advised pass for an INT on a drive that could have effectively ended the game. Are these turnovers fluky? Water finding its level after three TO free games? Or are they a source of real concern going against Clemson?

Paul: I am concerned. Marquise Williams has shown that he can hold onto the ball in traffic, but it appears as if he's always trying to make a big play rather than having game awareness. He doesn't seem to adjust based on what's going on during the game. He also doesn't seem to have adjusted to the broader scope of UNC's performance this year. He's played a lot like he did last year, but the team around him has become a top ten football team. I think that should be his biggest focus in preparing for the ACC championship game this week. There should be drills where Fedora gives them a game situation and he has to react. For instance we're down by five, we're up by five, this is where you try to make a play, and this is where you just go down. The focus needs to be on the more mental aspects of the game because we know he has the vision and the physical tools and all of the physical capabilities to excel, but he's got to have the mental component to put it all together.

Brian: Of course one issue there is how do you do that without putting him in a place where he is thinking about it too much. It has to be a balance between being the quarterback who can make the instinctive play such as escape for a big gain or make the big third down throw but at the same time naturally make those smart decisions.  Williams did that during the Duke game, his passes were on target and when he got pressure he did a good job of throwing the ball away. Duke game Marquise Williams has DirecTV, Virginia Tech/NC State Marquise Williams has cable. Beating Clemson will require a heavy dose of the former.

Doc: It could just be match up issues too. Two of Williams' worst games last year were VT and NC State, so it may be a fluke that they're back-to-back this year. My larger concern is Larry Fedora and Seth Littrell's seeming inability to recognize Bad Quise and adjust the play calling accordingly. Even when he is struggling they love to put the ball in his hands. If Saturday didn't show you it's OK to have faith in your running game, then I can't help you.

That said, if UNC's line can keep Quise upright and open some holes against Clemson then the Heels will have a chance to score points. Offensively challenged SCAR scored 32 on them and gashed a number of big plays. The question is how can the defense hold up? UNC's improved defense has given up 27, 34, and 35 points in 3 of last 4 games.

Paul: In both of these games Carolina has not really been in a position to lose the game when Williams has fumbled. It has really aggravated and stressed the fans, but objectively, the Heels have been in the lead every time and not been particularly threatened. I think Fedora and Littrell are trying to build Williams up again after the Trubisky saga of last year. I think both coaches realize that the team is best when Williams is best so they are trying to build his confidence and show that they have faith in him to lead the team. Carolina will not win its bowl game or the ACC title if Williams is not playing with confidence and at his best.

I think the defense can keep Clemson to 35 points, I think they load the box against the run and put their corners on islands in man coverage. The Heels might get beat a few times but that is their best path to victory. The question is can the Heels score more than Clemson. I think this game might look like the Georgia Tech game last year where whoever has the ball last wins.

Brian: Turning out attention to the ACC Championship game and the College football playoffs.

The CFP rankings came out and UNC's up to #10 which seems to position the Tar Heels poorly for jumping to #4 even with a win over Clemson. Is this a scenario where UNC getting into the playoffs could directly be tied to the margin of victory should Carolina win? If it is less than two TDs then it probably won't happen but if it 17 or more points and UNC has control of the entire game would the Heels really be left out?

Paul: I think the margin matters, but not quite to that extent. If Carolina wins while Iowa and USC also win then I do not think the margin is very important. I think that the Heels need help from other teams across the country rather than focusing on their own margin (even though improving their own margin obviously helps). If Carolina wins by 21 but Stanford wins, I am not very confident that the Heels get in anyway.

Brian: UNC is going to need help. The debate needs to be reduced to UNC vs one team not UNC vs multiple teams because in that case, the committee has plenty of options that they don't have to necessarily explain with any logic. Of course including a two loss conference champion over a one loss conference champion when the latter beat the #1 team doesn't make a ton of sense but is completely in line with how college football tends to decide these things.

Paul: That follows my thinking. I think UNC wins the debate if it is between them and Ohio State if Iowa beats Michigan State who beat Ohio State. I don't think that Carolina wins the debate between them, Ohio State, and Stanford if its a debate for one or even two playoff spots. Unless, of course, its a debate for two playoff spots and Carolina just best Clemson by three scores.

Doc: I think margin only matters if it is a number that makes eyes pop out of your head, like 4-5 touchdowns or so. Otherwise it will essentially come down to Stanford-USC, which will be going on at the same time as Carolina-Clemson. And even then I'm just not sure I trust the committee. Much like last year they want to send the message that you have to schedule tougher (never mind that UNC is one of the few schools that played two Power 5 games) so I could see them finding a way to exclude UNC just like they did TCU and Baylor last year. The difference is that this year you would have a UNC team that is a legit league champion and who beat the #1 team in a conference title game rather than the nebulous co-champ situation of the Big 12 in 2014.

UNC obviously needs USC to win to remove Stanford from the equation. It probably helps for Iowa to beat Sparty because that devalues tOSU's loss to them and removes another 1-loss team from the mix. Also, if the committee is going to value actually winning a championship, then as long as UNC isn't competing with Stanford, they may have a chance and that may ultimately doom Ohio State.

It still seems ludicrous to me that if UNC wins, regardless of the margin, the CFP Committee would essentially say a Power 5 team who won 12 games in a row and beat the #1 team in a conference championship game can't make the final four because they played Delaware rather than Idaho. That's essentially what the "2 FCS" compaint is, and one ESPN's David Hale has been arguing - that there is no functional difference between a bad FBS team and an FCS team.