Clemson's ACC Championship History

CU Athletic Communications

Clemson has a 5-1 record in six previous appearances in the ACC Championship Game. In the first two appearances, Clemson played a team it faced earlier that season. But, this year's matchup represents the fifth straight time Clemson has played a team for the first time that season in the ACC Championship Game. 

The Tigers faced North Carolina in 2015, Virginia Tech in 2016, Miami (Fla.) in 2017 and Pitt in 2018 in their first matchup of the season in each instance. Clemson first played in the ACC Championship Game in 2009 when Georgia Tech defeated Clemson, 39-34. Both teams rushed for over 300 yards in the game, which was the only FBS game in 2009 in which both teams had at least 300 yards rushing. It remains the only game in Clemson history in which neither team punted. C.J. Spiller rushed for 233 yards, scored four touchdowns and had 301 all-purpose yards, all of which remain ACC Championship game records. He was named the game’s MVP, the only time a player from the losing team has been honored. 

Clemson won the title two years later with a 38-10 win over Virginia Tech in 2011. Virginia Tech was ranked third in the USA Today poll entering the game, and the victory tied for the highest-ranked team Clemson had defeated at the time. Clemson has since defeated a No. 2 Ohio State and twice defeated No. 1 Alabama. Tajh Boyd had three touchdown passes and one rushing to account for four of Clemson’s five touchdowns on the night in 2011, as the Tigers boasted a balanced attack that recorded 217 yards rushing and 240 yards passing. It was Clemson’s first ACC Championship since 1991. 

Future NFL pros Dwayne Allen, Sammy Watkins and Andre Ellington all scored touchdowns for Clemson and the Tigers' defense held Virginia Tech to just 56 yards rushing. In 2015, the Tigers defeated North Carolina, 45-37, for the championship, a victory that gave Clemson a 13-0 record and a spot in the College Football Playoff for the first time. North Carolina was 11-1 and ranked eighth in the nation entering the game. 

Deshaun Watson led a Clemson offense that gained 608 yards in 98 plays, including 319 rushing yards and 289 passing yards. Watson completed 26-of-42 passes for 289 yards and three scores. He also had 131 yards rushing on 24 attempts and two rushing touchdowns. Wayne Gallman had 187 yards on 28 attempts to lead Clemson’s ground game. Artavis Scott had seven catches for 96 yards and a score. Gallman also had a career-high 68 receiving yards, giving him 255 all-purpose yards. Clemson won the 2016 ACC Championship game in Orlando over Virginia Tech with a 42-35 victory. 

Clemson was ranked third in the nation entering that game and Virginia Tech was 19th. Watson helped bolster his case as a Heisman finalist by accounting for five touchdowns in the victory, including three passing touchdowns among his 23-of-34 passing performance for 288 yards while adding 17 carries for 85 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. 

Top-ranked Clemson won its third straight ACC title in 2017, defeating the No. 7 Miami Hurricanes, 38- 3, in Charlotte. Offensively, the Tigers were sparked by quarterback Kelly Bryant, who completed his first 15 passes for 164 yards and finished the game with 252 yards and one passing touchdown on a career-high 23 completions to earn MVP honors. The Clemson defense held Miami to just 22 yards of offense in the first quarter and 214 for the whole game, while also forcing three Hurricane turnovers in the third quarter alone.

Last year, No. 2/2 Clemson became the first football team in ACC history to win four consecutive conference titles outright on a rainy night at Bank of America Stadium, defeating the Coastal champion Pitt Panthers by a score of 42-10. With the win, Clemson remained undefeated at 13-0 overall, while Pitt moved to 7-6 on the year. Trevor Lawrence completed 12-of-24 pass attempts for 118 yards with a pair of touchdown tosses to Tee Higgins, who finished the game with 36 yards and those two scores on three receptions. Travis Etienne added 156 yards with two touchdowns on 12 carries, and Adam Choice and Lyn-J Dixon each ran for a score as well. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Clemson held the Pitt offense to negative yardage for the first nine minutes of the game and also limited the Panthers to just eight passing yards for the whole game. Tre Lamar topped the stat sheet with nine total tackles, and Dexter Lawrence and Isaiah Simmons each contributed two and a half of the Tigers’ nine total tackles for loss.