ACC on The Line

Boston College has lost its national championship hopes, and now Clemson would relish spoiling its new rival's shot at the ACC title.

A trip to the conference championship game is at stake Saturday when the 18th-ranked Eagles visit Death Valley to face the No. 15 Tigers in a matchup of teams that have been going in opposite directions.

The winner will wrap up the league's Atlantic Division crown, thus clinching a spot in the ACC championship game in Jacksonville, Fla. on Dec. 1. The winner of that contest automatically receives a BCS bowl berth.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Clemson -7 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 68% of bets for this game have been placed on Clemson -7 (View College Football bet percentages).

It appeared Boston College (8-2, 4-2) had a very good chance to play in the BCS title game only two weeks ago, sitting at No. 2 in the polls and the BCS standings.

Back-to-back upset losses have changed everything.

"They have to win this game," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "They've got something to play for."

A 27-17 home defeat to Florida State on Nov. 3 ruined the Eagles' perfect season and they were unable to bounce back last Saturday, losing 42-35 at Maryland.

"Being we were No. 2 in the nation to losing two straight, it obviously goes from an extreme high to an extreme low," BC linebacker Mark Herzlich said. "We need to come out and show we should be on top of the ACC."

Clemson (8-2, 5-2) is hoping to show the same thing. The Tigers put themselves in position to claim the division title by winning four straight - the last three in conference play - after consecutive losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech seemed to spoil their season.

"We know we're in the driver's seat," Tigers center Thomas Austin said. "We have the opportunity to play for an ACC championship. The guys are a lot more focused with their minds on business."

If it had beaten Boston College in either of the last two seasons - the Eagles' first two in the ACC - Clemson would have gone on to win the Atlantic Division. Instead, with overtime losses in both meetings, the Tigers remain without a conference title since 1991.

A victory Saturday would give Clemson a chance to end that drought and erase the bad memory of last season, when it appeared headed for the ACC title game with a 7-1 record but lost four of its final five games.

"During recruiting, they told me come here and win an ACC championship," Tigers defensive end Ricky Sapp said. "It's happening."

The quarterback matchup may be the most intriguing battle in this contest.

Boston College's Matt Ryan is the bigger name, but his Heisman Trophy candidacy has slipped in recent weeks while Clemson's Cullen Harper has started to make a name for himself.

During the Tigers' four-game win streak, Harper has completed 77.1 percent of his passes for 902 yards and 12 touchdowns with only one interception. His 154.1 passer rating for the season tops the ACC, while Ryan has dropped to fifth (129.8).

Ryan has completed just 52.2 percent of his attempts in the last three games, throwing as many touchdown passes as interceptions - seven. He tops the conference with 3,269 passing yards, but has two fewer TD passes than Harper's ACC-leading 26 and nine more interceptions.

Harper did not play in last year's game against BC while Ryan was limited to 212 yards passing and one touchdown, but his 1-yard TD run with 4:59 left in regulation tied the game. The Eagles went on to prevail 34-33 in double overtime, one year after winning 16-13 in overtime at Clemson.

Harper will be looking to take advantage of an Eagles pass defense that has given up 708 yards over the past two weeks. Boston College surrendered more than 450 total yards of offense in each of those games while failing to force a turnover.

"It's disappointing any time you don't win, but we still have everything in front of us," BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said.

The Eagles offense has relied on Ryan's arm all season and that's unlikely to change this week, with Clemson having allowed just 284 total rushing yards and 2.3 per carry over its last four games.

The run defense for BC is second-best in the country, allowing 65.7 yards per game despite giving up a season-worst 135 last week. That means the Tigers could have Harper dropping back to pass much more often than handing off to James Davis or C.J. Spiller.

That 'Thunder and Lightning' tandem has accounted for 709 yards rushing over the last four games, with Spiller providing the bigger spark despite fewer carries, as he's averaged 6.5 yards per rush.

This series is even at 7-7-2, but Clemson has not beaten BC since 1958.

"It's the biggest game we played in here in a while," Harper said. "It's all on the line."

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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