First Clemson-UNC point spread released for ACC football championship game

Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com

Clemson is the betting favorite against North Carolina heading into next Saturday’s ACC football championship game, according to opening lines released Sunday.

Clemson opened as a seven-point favorite against UNC, according to the VegasInsider consensus line that factors in multiple sportsbooks.

Clemson, the ACC Atlantic Division champion, enters the title game after a 31-30 home loss to rival South Carolina on Saturday that dropped the team to 10-2 and all but eliminated coach Dabo Swinney’s program from College Football Playoff contention for a second consecutive season.

The Tigers, who finished 8-0 in the ACC, were a 14-point favorite at home entering their annual rivalry game. But they snapped a seven-game winning streak against USC as well as an ACC-record 40-game home winning streak with their one-point loss to the Gamecocks, who are 8-4 in coach Shane Beamer’s second season.

UNC, the ACC Coastal Division champion, also enters the title game on a downward trajectory. The Tar Heels lost 30-27 at home in double overtime to N.C. State on Friday. That defeat marked their second consecutive home loss to an unranked conference opponent after Georgia Tech beat them last week.

UNC is now 9-3 and 6-2 in the ACC.

Clemson and North Carolina dropped to No. 10 and No. 24, respectively, in Sunday’s AP Top 25 poll. The teams will also see a significant drop in Tuesday’s updated CFP Top 25 rankings after their losses (Clemson was No. 8 and UNC was No. 17 in last week’s rankings).

The Tigers and Tar Heels’ respective struggles have made for a unique ACC championship game. According to research from ESPN’s David Hale, this is the first time since 2012 that both of the participants in a Power Five conference championship game are coming off a loss.

The last instance: the 2012 ACC championship game, which pitted Florida State and Georgia Tech against each other after they lost to Florida and Georgia, respectively, in their regular-season finales.

Clemson is 38-19-1 all-time against UNC. The Tigers have also won four consecutive meetings against the Tar Heels dating back to 2011 and seven of eight meetings dating back to 2002.

But the last two Clemson-North Carolina games — in the 2015 ACC championship game and the 2019 regular season have been instant classics.

In the former game, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson had 420 total yards and five touchdowns as the Tigers beat the Tar Heels 45-37, starting a streak of six straight ACC titles and six straight CFP appearances.

But the win didn’t come without controversy. UNC got within eight points after quarterback Marquise Williams’ touchdown pass to receiver Ryan Switzer with 1:13 remaining and then recovered the ensuing onside kick.

Despite replays showing a clean recovery, officials flagged the Tar Heels for being offsides. UNC had to re-kick, and Clemson recovered the ball and ran out the clock. Former UNC coach Larry Fedora said after the game that the refs “missed it. They were wrong. That’s all I’m going to say about it.”

In the latter game, Clemson visited UNC as a 27.5-point betting favorite in but barely escaped with a 21-20 win early in the 2019 season. Hall of Fame coach Mack Brown was in the first season of his second stint at UNC and rolled the dice late, opting to go for two — and the win — against the No. 1 team in the country after a late touchdown.

But multiple Tigers stuffed UNC quarterback Sam Howell on an option run with 1:17 remaining, preserving a one-point win. That ended up being the closest game that reigning national champion Clemson played all season before a 17-point loss to LSU in the 2019 national championship game.

Clemson is 7-1 all-time in eight previous ACC championship game appearances, all under Swinney. The Tigers won in 2011 (vs. Virginia Tech), 2015 (UNC), 2016 (Virginia Tech), 2017 (Miami), 2018 (Pittsburgh), 2019 (Virginia) and 2020 (Notre Dame). Their only loss came to Georgia Tech in 2009.

This is the final ACC championship game between divisional champions. The conference had operated under a divisional structure since 2005 but announced over the summer it would move to a divisionless format starting in 2023, echoing a trend across college football at large.

Under the ACC’s new format, similar to the one followed by the Big 12 and the Pac-12, all 14 schools will compete in one division and the top two teams based on conference winning percentage will advance to the conference championship game.

2022 ACC football championship game

Who: No. 8 Clemson (10-2, 8-0 ACC) vs. No. 17 North Carolina (9-3, 6-2 ACC)

When: 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3

Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte

TV: ABC