Clemson vs. North Carolina: Q&A with Rubbing the Rock


I had a chance to talk with Andrew Boardwine, editor of Rubbing the Rock, about the big ACC Championship matchup between UNC and Clemson. Keeping It Heel’s questions are below in bold, and Boardwine’s responses are listed below.

Keeping It Heel: The other day, a picture of Deshaun Watson’s Heisman resume went viral. Give me your case for why he should win the Heisman.

Andrew Boardwine: In my opinion, the Heisman race is down to three candidates: Derrick Henry of Alabama, Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, and Deshaun Watson of Clemson. The reason he should be considered for the Heisman is, frankly, because he’s led the Tigers to a 12-0 season with two wins over top-10 opponents, and has them sitting number one in the nation. In addition to what he has done for the program, he is the only player in all of College Football to throw for 3,000+ yards and rush for 750 yards. He has accounted for 36 touchdowns and, in my opinion, is the most complete player in the nation. In addition to his stats, you have to realize that Watson leads his team through word and action. He takes control of the offense and has put the team on his back at times and willed them to victory. If that doesn’t describe a Heisman winner, I don’t know what does.

KIH: In what area has Clemson improved the most over the course of the season?

AB: Over the course of the season, I believe the Tigers have improved most in the passing game. At the beginning of the season, Clemson lost its leading wide receiver and greatest down the field threat in Mike Williams. It took them a few games to sort out roles between receivers, but they have improved as of late. More specifically, I believe the Tigers have improved at hitting the deep ball. At the beginning of the year, Watson didn’t really have anyone that could go up and get the ball or beat the corner back with their speed, but true-freshman Deon Cain has emerged as that big play threat and the Tigers’ offense is more explosive as a result.

KIH: In what game this season did Clemson struggle the most, and why did they have so much trouble against that team?

AB: I would say either South Carolina or possibly Louisville earlier in the season. The Tigers struggled against Louisville because they were still learning to mesh on offense and were relying heavily on the run game. Not to mention the fact that it was a road game on a Thursday night against a Cardinal team that was heavily motivated after starting the year off 0-2. Clemson struggled against South Carolina heavily because of two things: 1. Turnovers, 2. Defensive breakdowns in the second half.

If you look back at the game against the Gamecocks, Clemson’s defense completely shut the South Carolina offense out in the first half, barring one or two drives, but came out the second half and gave up big plays up the middle and did not play well in coverage. That gave the Gamecocks a chance to get back in the game as they had chunk plays for 30 or 40 yards and it gave momentum back to an already heavily motivated Gamecock team. Clemson also committed three turnovers against the Gamecocks, which gave South Carolina momentum and a short field to work with.

KIH: Are you worried there is a chance that Clemson could overlook the Heels for their first game of the CFB, or not take them seriously as an opponent?

AB: Absolutely not. North Carolina may be the best team Clemson has played all year and it’s the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers will be more motivated for this game than any game they have played since Florida State at the beginning of November.

Clemson knows how explosive the Tar Heel offense is and they will come prepared. I expect them to be more focused for this game than any game to this point on the schedule. They have been grinding out for 10 weeks and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

KIH: What is your score prediction for the game?

AB: I believe this game could be a shootout with a lot of offense. It also could end up being a game where the Tigers just try to hold on to the ball and keep the Tar Heels on the sideline. At the end of the day, I think Clemson wins 42-31 or somewhere around that range.