Clemson, SC - Clemson didn't look much like a team that would be in contention for a BCS berth as of early October.
That was before the 18th-ranked Tigers' offense - most notably C.J. Spiller - took off.
Averaging 42.0 points in winning five straight while Spiller has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate, Clemson can wrap up its first trip to the ACC title game with a home victory Saturday against lowly Virginia.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made Clemson -21 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on Clemson -21 (View College Football bet percentages).
The Tigers (7-3, 5-2) lost three of its first five games by a total of 10 points, falling by three at Georgia Tech and four at home to TCU - both teams now ranked in the top 10.
While those defeats came against impressive opposition, a 24-21 loss at woeful Maryland on Oct. 3 could have sent Clemson into a tailspin. Instead, the Tigers have become the team to beat in the league's Atlantic Division by reeling off five consecutive victories. They've scored at least 38 points in each win while averaging 425.8 yards, most recently beating North Carolina State 43-23 last Saturday in Raleigh.
With a win on senior day against Virginia (3-7, 2-4), Clemson would clinch a spot in the ACC championship game to face the Yellow Jackets, who needed a 36-yard field goal in the final minute to win the first meeting 30-27 in Atlanta on Sept. 10.
The Tigers haven't won the ACC title since 1991.
"We're where we wanted to be," Spiller said. "We control our own destiny."
The senior tailback has keyed Clemson's turnaround. Spiller ran for 72.0 yards per game and 4.2 per carry in the Tigers' first five games, running for one touchdown and catching another. In their five straight wins, he's rushed for 95.2 yards per game and 7.0 per carry while totaling eight TDs.
Spiller needs 103 all-purpose yards to break the ACC single-season record of 2,054, held by Virginia's Thomas Jones. Last Saturday, Spiller had a 16-yard touchdown run, caught a 34-yard scoring pass and threw a 17-yard TD to Xavier Dye, becoming the first Clemson player to do all three in one game.
"I'm just proud of C.J. - another ho-hum day for him," coach Dabo Swinney said. "I don't know how many other 'first evers' the guy can have."
The only other TD pass of Spiller's career was a 15-yarder to Tyler Grisham last season in Charlottesville as the Tigers beat Virginia 13-3 despite gaining only 192 total yards. Spiller was held to 18 yards on 14 carries.
He's 21st in the nation in scrimmage yards per game (121.8), but what boosts his Heisman candidacy is his contribution in the return game. He's taken three kicks and one punt back for touchdowns this season, and with one more kickoff return TD, he will tie the career record of six held by Southern California's Anthony Davis (1972-74) and Tulsa's Ashlan Davis (2004-05).
Clemson also has gotten a big boost lately from freshman Kyle Parker. He's thrown 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in the Tigers' four wins over FBS opponents during their five-game winning streak while compiling a 164.9 passer rating.
His rating was 102.4 through his first five collegiate games.
"Early in the season, the skills were apparent, but clearly he was a player who hadn't had to make those decisions under the speed of ACC competition," Virginia coach Al Groh said. "Now that he's 10 games into the season he's really doing a terrific job with it."
Swinney's defense, meanwhile, allows 299.3 yards per game to rank second in the ACC and 20th nationally. Clemson's 20 interceptions lead the FBS - 12 in the last five games - and DeAndre McDaniels leads the team with eight.
Virginia only has nine turnovers in its past nine games after having seven in a disastrous season-opening loss to William & Mary.
The Cavaliers' offense, though, still isn't moving the ball. Virginia ranks 118th in the nation with 266.7 yards per game and 106th in scoring offense, averaging 19.8 points.
After three straight games under 200 yards of total offense, the Cavaliers gained 298 last Saturday against Boston College - Jameel Sewell threw for 221 - but they couldn't score an offensive touchdown in a 14-10 loss.
"It's important for me, despite the bitterness of the loss, to keep in perspective that very little separated the two teams," Groh said after his team's fourth straight defeat.
Virginia hasn't visited Clemson since a 30-27 overtime loss in 2003.
Posted: 11/17/09 4:37PM ET