The fifth-ranked Hokies (11-1) have won seven consecutive games while Clemson has lost three of four, including a bitter 34-13 setback against in-state rival South Carolina last week. The Tigers also are dealing with a slew of distractions.
Add in the fact the Hokies have experience on their side when it comes to big games – they’ve won three of the past four ACC championships – and it’s easy to see why they’re a seven-point favorite.
All of that means little to Frank Beamer.
The Virginia Tech coach knows just how tough it is to beat the Tigers.
Virginia Tech’s only loss this season came against Clemson (9-3) – and it wasn’t even close. The Hokies were drubbed 23-3 in front of their own fans as the Tigers beat them at their own game with a tough, physical and relentless defensive performance.
But the two teams have gone in opposite directions since.
Virginia Tech has not lost since, advancing to the title game with a 38-0 thumping of Virginia last week, while Clemson’s defense has given up 32.4 points per game since the decisive win in Blacksburg, Va.
“There’s a thin line, such a thin line, between momentum and getting over a hump and not,” Beamer said Friday.
“I think they just got on the other side of that thin line, and sometimes it’s hard once you get rolling the other way to get it back. But I think when you’ve got talent on your football team like they do you can get into a game, and all of a sudden things get rolling.
“We’ve experienced it firsthand.”
Beamer is referring to the inaugural ACC championship game in 2005, when the Hokies, a two-touchdown favorite, seemed poised to roll over an unranked Florida State team that had lost three consecutive conference games for the first time ever.
Instead, the opposite happened.
The Hokies committed 17 penalties and lost 27-22 in Jacksonville, Fla.
The good news for Virginia Tech is Beamer’s teams normally excel in rematch games.
In both 2007 and ’08, the Hokies lost to Boston College during the regular season only to come back and win the rematch against the Eagles in the ACC championship. Virginia Tech’s other title came last year against the Seminoles.
Clemson has been to the ACC title game once, but lost in 2009 to Georgia Tech.
“I think what’s happened in the past is in the past, and you’d better get ready to play this one ballgame with everything you’ve got, because they’re putting a lot into it, and we need to do the same thing,” Beamer said.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is trying to salvage what was once a promising season after the Tigers began 8-0 and were ranked as high as sixth in the country.
He has had to answer questions about first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris potentially being a candidate to join Urban Meyer’s staff at Ohio State.
He has acknowledged quarterback Tajh Boyd has struggled recently with his confidence, and ACC rookie of the year Sammy Watkins is hampered by a shoulder injury, although he should play today.