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UNC vs. Clemson: X-Factor

Who can offense more?

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

God seemed pleased to smite Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers this season with four losses already, despite the football program emulating Him with their NIL collective. But, proper prayers and tithings must have been made, as the Tigers are rebounding at just the wrong time — right before UNC comes to town.

Clemson has had four losses so far this season, and the finger can be pointed squarely at the offense. They’ve barely improved on last season’s average of 28 ppg, and DJ Uiagalelei isn’t there to kick around anymore. Cade Klubnik — who looked like a hero in the ACC Championship game last season before crashing back to Earth in the Orange Bowl — has moved the needle some. Clemson has averaged 30.3 ppg in ten games this season, but 66 points against Charleston Southern and 48 against Florida Atlantic are doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

Clemson has looked rather pedestrian against good defenses. Most college football fans were shocked when Duke only gave up seven points to the Tigers in the season-opener. They’ve also only scored 17 points against Wake Forest (#53 scoring defense in college football) and NC State (#23).

Fortunately for Clemson, they will not face a good defense this Saturday afternoon. Carolina is currently the #60 ranked scoring defense, giving up a generous 25.5 ppg, but it’s all trending downwards. Carolina has surrendered 40.7 ppg in their last three ACC games, two of them to teams they should have beat, and one of them playing a true freshman quarterback in his second-ever start. Dabo doesn’t need to hear God whispering in his ear to run up the middle or attack with tempo.

The question now becomes: can Clemson’s offense out-score Carolina’s? We saw what UNC did against a turgid Duke D. The Heels scored on 8/10 drives in regulation, punting just once, and throwing an awful interception after Ty Chapman dropped a fair catch at the one-yard line. Even though too many of the drives ended in field goals, UNC’s offense moved the ball with great ease.

Carolina’s defense is bad. But I don’t think they’re incapable of getting two or three stops in Death Valley. If Drake Maye, Omarion Hampton, and company are rolling the way they were against Duke, and Chip Lindsey stops drawing up dumb screens and gets serious in the red zone, Carolina could turn this into a basketball game. And in basketball, the Tar Heels are more than capable of beating Clemson.