No. 20 North Carolina is hoping a series of unlikely events will unfold that will put the Tar Heels in the ACC Championship Game, but before tiebreaker scenarios can be considered seriously, UNC must first do something it hasn't done since 2001: Beat Clemson in Death Valley.
Clemson has won the last five meetings overall with North Carolina, including two showdowns in the ACC Championship Game (2015, 2022). And while the Tigers have long been eliminated from ACC title contention with a 3-4 league record, the team has found a late surge of confidence during this three-week run of home games that's already featured a win vs. Notre Dame and a rout of Georgia Tech.
North Carolina still has a narrow possible path to the ACC Championship Game thanks to Saturday's 47-45 double-overtime win against rival Duke, which marked the seventh time in 10 games this season that the Tar Heels have scored at least 40 points. On the season as a whole North Carolina ranks No. 8 nationally averaging 39.9 points per game, and that unit will be in the spotlight vs. the Tigers when it's strength-on-strength going up against a Clemson defense that is allowing just 21.2 points per game and ranks No. 6 nationally allowing just 4.38 yards per play.
How to watch Clemson vs. North Carolina live
Date: Saturday, Nov. 18 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Memorial Stadium -- Clemson, South Carolina
TV: ESPN | Live stream: Fubo (Try for free)
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Clemson vs. North Carolina: Need to know
Youth movement underway for Clemson: Last week's 21-point win vs. Georgia Tech featured a glimpse of what's to come in the future for Clemson, and while the 2023 season won't finish in line with preseason expectations, signs are pointing to a quick bounce back to ACC title contention. Freshmen accounted for three of Clemson's six touchdowns in the win (wide receiver Tyler Brown and tight end Josh Sapp on touchdown receptions, cornerback Shelton Lewis with a pick six), as well as all four of the Tigers' interceptions (Lewis, Khalil Barnes, Avieon Terrell and Kylon Griffin). While freshmen defensive linemen Peter Woods and T.J. Parker have been steady contributors throughout the year, this late-season emergence of young talent is a sign that Clemson's stock is indeed headed in the right direction.
Drake Maye and Omarion Hampton lead UNC's stellar offense: Maye, the Tar Heels' quarterback, entered the year with plenty of hype as the reigning ACC Player of the Year and a likely first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, but he's gotten some help from Hampton to give the Tar Heels a balanced and explosive offensive attack. Maye might not be in the middle of the Heisman Trophy conversation, but he's having a season worthy of being considered one of the top quarterbacks in the country. Maye ranks No. 3 nationally averaging 314.5 passing yards per game, trailing only Michael Penix and Jayden Daniels, while his 21 passing touchdowns and 9.0 yards per attempt rank in the top 20 nationally and top two in the ACC. Hampton's breakout season in the ground game includes leading the ACC and being ranked No. 2 nationally averaging 123.6 rushing yards per game, with 13 rushing touchdowns also leading the conference and checking in tied for No. 7 nationally.
Mack Brown looking for the rare win against Clemson: While North Carolina as a program has not won at Clemson since 2001, the lopsided results for Brown reach further back and carry across both of his stints as UNC coach. Brown is just 3-9 against Clemson in his career and 0-2 against Dabo Swinney, falling in last year's ACC Championship Game and also in a 21-20 thriller in 2019, Brown's first season back in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Clemson vs. North Carolina prediction, picks
Odds via SportsLine consensus
I know this is an extremely high total for a Clemson defense that ranks among the nation's best, but this is a game that can get sideways given all the explosiveness on the Tar Heels offense and UNC's propensity to give up big plays on defense. The spread is a little too tight to jump on one side, but I do think it's a game where at least one team comfortably makes it into the 30s. Pick: Over 58.5
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