TOP 25 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: #1 CLEMSON VS. VIRGINIA
CLEMSON AWAITS VIRGINIA IN FIRST TEST OF OCTOBER Clemson will play its first of five games in the month of October — including four home games — when the Tigers face the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday. Kickoff at Memorial Stadium is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. While Clemson scored on each of its first six offensive possessions (plus a defensive scoop-and-score) in a 49-0 victory its last time out, The Citadel was able to accomplish what no opponent had been able to for more than a calendar year: holding running back Travis Etienne out of the end zone. The game ended Etienne’s 13-game streak of scoring a touchdown, one shy of the school record, a streak that saw 371 calendar days elapse since he was last held scoreless at Syracuse on Sept. 14, 2019. Etienne has scored a touchdown (rushing or receiving) in 37 of his 45 career games, already an ACC record for the most career games scoring a touchdown. With his next touchdown of any kind, Etienne will tie Florida’s Tim Tebow (38 games from 2006-09) and Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon (38 from 2012-15) for the Football Bowl Subdivision record in that category. Defensively, the Tigers are coming off of the program’s first shutout since the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. Clemson’s run defense has been particularly stout in the first two games, holding opponents to an average of 1.50 yards per carry, the third-fewest in the nation. Last game, Clemson held option-heavy The Citadel, which averaged 268.2 rushing yards per game (sixth in the FCS) in 2019, to only 1.8 yards per carry. This week, Clemson will attempt to hold a third consecutive opponent below 2.0 yards per carry for the first time since 1991. The Saturday evening home game in Death Valley will take place at a location, time and day of the week that have all been very kind to the Tigers in recent years: Clemson at Home: Clemson has won a school-record 23 straight home games and is a national-best 42-1 at home since 2014. Clemson has outscored opponents 1782-548 at home in that span, an average victory margin of 28.7 points per game. Clemson at Night: Clemson has played 37 night games since 2015. In that span, Clemson is 33-4 at night, including a 24-1 night record in the regular season and an 11-0 mark under the lights at Death Valley. Clemson on Saturdays: The Tigers enter the contest having won 45 consecutive Saturday games, tied with the 1953-57 Oklahoma Sooners for the longest streak in FBS history, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Clemson can take sole possession of the longest Saturday streak in FBS history with a win Saturday night.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR THIS WEEK – Clemson attempting to improve to 40-8-1 against Virginia all-time. Virginia would become the fifth opponent against whom Clemson has collected 40 all-time wins (South Carolina, Wake Forest, NC State and Furman). – Clemson attempting to win a fifth consecutive game against Virginia for the first time since opening its alltime series against the Cavaliers with a 29-game winning streak across the 1955-89 seasons. That previous 29- game winning streak is tied for the sixth-longest winning streak in FBS history for one team over another. – Though 2020 will technically be a divisionless season, Clemson will attempt to improve to 29-8 against opponents historically from the ACC Coastal Division, including postseason play, under Head Coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson has won 14 of its last 15 games against the Coastal Division since 2015. – Clemson attempting to push its streak of consecutive victories in games that would typically count as ACC interdivisional matchups to 11 games, dating back to the 2016 ACC Championship Game. – Clemson attempting to become the first program to win 300 ACC regular season games, according to official conference records. The ACC credits Clemson with a 299- 143-6 record all-time in ACC regular season play. – Clemson attempting to win a 24th consecutive game against an ACC opponent, including postseason play. A 24-game winning streak against conference opponents would tie the 1998-2001 Florida State Seminoles for the third-longest streak in conference history. – Clemson attempting to win a 24th consecutive home game to extend its school record for the longest home winning streak in school history. Of the 120 players on Clemson’s 2020 roster, 111 have never experienced a home loss in their Clemson careers. Nine fifth-year seniors on Clemson’s 2020 roster were on the 2016 team that recovered from a home loss to Pitt by winning the national championship that season. – Clemson entering the game having won 31 consecutive regular season games, the longest such streak in ACC annals. Clemson’s last regular season loss came in October 2017 at Syracuse. – Clemson attempting to improve to 22-1 in October games in the College Football Playoff era (since 2014). – Clemson attempting to push its winning streak in Saturday games to 46 to extend the longest Saturday winning streak in school history and take sole possession of the longest streak in FBS history. Clemson’s current run of 45 consecutive Saturday victories is presently tied with the 1953-57 Oklahoma Sooners for the longest streak in FBS history. – Head Coach Dabo Swinney attempting to secure his 133rd career win as a head coach, which would pull him within one victory of Virginia’s George Welsh (134) for the second-most career wins by an ACC head coach. At the time of his retirement following the 2000 season, Welsh was the winningest head coach in ACC history prior to being passed by Bobby Bowden.
– Clemson attempting to open a season with three or more rushing touchdowns in each of the first three games of a season for the first time since 1955. – Clemson having an opportunity to post consecutive shutouts for the first time since 1993 (vs. East Tennessee State and Maryland). – Clemson, which allowed only 1.1 yards per carry to Wake Forest and 1.8 yards per carry to The Citadel, attempting to hold three consecutive opponents below 2.0 yards per carry for the first time since 1991 against Maryland, South Carolina and Duke. – Clemson entering the game having recorded multiple sacks in 24 of its last 25 games, including each of its last eight. – Clemson attempting to record at least four sacks in a fifth straight game, dating to last season, for the first time since a six-game streak across the 1990-91 seasons. – Clemson playing its first of four scheduled home games in the month of October. If played as scheduled, it would represent the seventh time Clemson has played four home games in a single month, joining the 1920, 1987, 1989, 1993, 2008 and 2011 campaigns. In all six of the previous instances, Clemson posted a winning record in those contests. – Clemson playing its 17th game all-time while ranked No. 1 in the AP poll, which would tie Pitt and Tennessee for 15th-most since the poll’s inception in 1936. It will be Dabo Swinney’s 16th game coached at No. 1, moving him into sole possession of 20th among coaches in the AP Poll era (since 1936) and pulling him within one game of Ara Parseghian (17) for 19th. – Clemson attempting to improve to 16-2 all-time when ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press. Clemson is 11-0 all-time in regular season play as the nation’s top-ranked team by the AP. – Running back Travis Etienne (at least one rushing or receiving touchdown in 37 of his 45 career games) needing a touchdown of any kind to tie the FBS record for most career games with a touchdown, presently held by Florida’s Tim Tebow (38 games from 2006-09) and Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon (38 from 2012-15). – Etienne attempting to record his 19th career 100- yard rushing game to tie Virginia’s Tiki Barber for ninth most in ACC history. Etienne’s 18 100-yard rushing games are already a Clemson record. – Etienne (4,208) needing 121 rushing yards to move past Boston College’s AJ Dillon (4,328 from 2017-19) for the fourth-most career rushing yards in ACC history. – Etienne (57) needing three more rushing touchdowns to become only the 12th player in official FBS records to score 60 career rushing touchdowns, a mark reached only by Navy’s Keenan Reynolds (88), Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (77), Miami (Ohio)’s Travis Prentice (73), Texas’ Ricky Williams (72), Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon (72), Florida Atlantic’s Devin Singletary (66), Indiana’s Anthony Thompson (64), Texas’ Cedric Benson (64), Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne (63), San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey (62) and Oregon’s Royce Freeman (60).
UVA HEADS TO “DEATH VALLEY” ON SATURDAY • The Virginia Cavaliers head on the road for the first time in 2020 to face the top-ranked Clemson Tigers in “Death Valley.” VIRGINIA VS. CLEMSON • Overall, the series has been one-sided, with Clemson holding a 39-8-1 edge. • UVA and Clemson last met in 2019 for the ACC title at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Prior to that contest, the Cavaliers and Tigers had not met since a 2013 contest at Scott Stadium, which resulted in a 59-10 Clemson win. • UVA is visiting “Death Valley” for the first time since 2009. The Tigers escaped with the 34-21 victory in what served as C.J. Spillar’s “Senior Day” game at Clemson. • UVA has won three of the last eight games though, including two of four at Scott Stadium. • The Tigers won the first 29 games in the series before UVA won in 1990. Since then, Virginia is 8-10-1 vs. Clemson. FIVE TOP STORYLINES •WR Lavel Davis Jr. notched four receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns in his collegiate debut against Duke. He is the only Cavalier in program history to record 100+ receiving yards in his collegiate debut. • SS Brenton Nelson pulled down a career-high two interceptions in the win against Duke. Nelson, the 2017 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year, returned to action after missing the last six games of 2019 due to an injury that hampered him most of the season. He is one of four FBS players this season to notch two interceptions in a game. • Last time out, Virginia forced Duke to turn the ball over seven times, including five interceptions. Both the seven overall turnovers forced and the five interceptions are FBS single-game highs in the nation so far this season. The five interceptions tie a UVA single-game record, which has been accomplished 10 times so far. • QB Brennan Armstrong became just the second left-handed quarterback in Virginia history to start a game when he did so against Duke. He joins fellow southpaw Jameel Sewell, who started 32 career games for the Cavaliers over the 2006, 2007 and 2009 seasons. Armstrong passed for 269 yards, which ranks No. 2 all-time at UVA among first career starts. • Bronco Mendenhall is 5-0 all-time in ACC openers, including wins over Duke in 2016, 2017 and 2020. UVA also topped Louisville in 2018 and Pitt in 2019 ACC openers under Mendenhall. The 2016 UVA win by Mendenhall in his first-ever ACC game (at Duke) marked the first time a UVA coach won his first-ever ACC contest as the Cavalier head coach.
UVA VS. RANKED CLEMSON TEAMS • UVA is 2-14-1 all-time against ranked Clemson teams, including 1-8-1 at Memorial Stadium. • UVA’s lone win at Memorial Stadium came in 2001 during Al Groh’s first season as the Cavalier head coach. The Cavaliers beat then-No. 19 Clemson, 26-24, when Bryson Spinner found Billy McMullen in the end zone on a one-yard passing play with one second left to play. • The lone UVA win against a ranked Tiger team at Scott Stadium came in Virginia’s first win over Clemson in program history in 1990. STOP THE CLEMSON GROUND GAME • Virginia’s ability to contain the Clemson running game has been an important factor in its eight wins over the Tigers. • Since 1990 Virginia has won eight of 13 games when holding Clemson under 200 yards on the ground. • The 2008 meeting was an aberration – Clemson won despite only rushing for 56 yards in a 13-3 contest at UVA. • UVA held C.J. Spiller to 18 yards rushing and a season-low 1.3 yards per carry in that 2008 meeting. • Virginia is 8-11 all-time against Clemson when the Tigers fail to rush for at least 200 yards, but six of the losses occurred prior to 1978 in the midst of UVA’s 29-game losing streak to Clemson.