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ACCCG Keys

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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What Clemson and Virginia Tech need to do to win a league title in Orlando.

Three keys to victory, for each team, for the 2016 ACC Championship Game.

For Clemson
1. Wreck Havoc Up Front -- The Clemson defensive line is one of the best in college football as Christian Wilkins and Carlos Watkins lead a group that is deep and disruptive. Collectively, the unit must work to get Virginia Tech's dynamic quarterback Jerrod Evans out of sync; with 26 touchdowns and just five interceptions, Evans has a higher passer rating than both Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson and is also the Hokies' leading rusher. Frustrating him has to be considered priority number one. Wilkins is the catalyst. At 6'4'', 310 pounds, he has 12 tackles for loss and seven pass deflections on the season. Also be aware of veteran linebacker Ben Boulware, four sacks and three forced fumbles, who is always seemingly making plays at the line of scrimmage.    

2. Keep Gallman Going -- For as great as quarterback Deshaun Watson is, the Tigers are at their absolute best with offensive balance. Running back Wayne Gallman ran for 1,527 yards and 13 touchdowns a year ago and has 943 yards and 14 scores this fall. He compiled 187 rushing yards and 68 receiving yards in the 2015 ACC Championship Game triumph over North Carolina. Gallman enters Saturday on a tear, having run for a season-high 161 yards at Wake Forest and 112 against South Carolina, two of Clemson's best games. Virginia Tech's rush defense has shown some vulnerabilities, so there may be opportunities for Gallman to produce. Watson, fresh off six touchdown passes against the Gamecocks, is even better when Gallman has traction between the tackles. If the Tigers can find offensive harmony, the challenge will be an immense one for the Hokies.     

3. Minimize Turnovers -- The Tigers have a negative turnover margin on the season and have lost possession 23 times; only Virginia and Louisville have more such miscues among ACC teams. Part of what can equalize a pairing where there is a clear favorite are turnovers, boosting the underdog both through momentum and extra offensive opportunities. Virginia Tech does have 12 interceptions on the fall, so Deshaun Watson will often have to be careful when testing the Hokies downfield. Clemson doesn't need to give Virginia Tech any help.

For Virginia Tech
1. Pressure Watson -- Though the Tigers have given up just 14 sacks this year, the Hokies have to find a way to bring the heat against one of the premier players in the country. After leading the league in sacks back in 2014, Virginia Tech has not been a consistently elite pass-rushing team the last few seasons. That said, end Ken Ekanem can certainly be effective as the senior has recorded 21.5 sacks over the past three years. Additionally, All-ACC tackle Woody Baron has proven to be a playmaker along the interior and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds has the versatility to be an impact defender off the edge. Expect coordinator Bud Foster, one of the best in the business, to come up with unique blitzes to get after Watson and force him into adjustments. If Watson has time to throw, he is simply too good to slow down.

2. Redzone Efficiency -- It has been an incredibly productive season in year one under Justin Fuente, but the Hokies have struggled to score touchdowns in the redzone. Virginia Tech has reached the endzone on only 56.6% of those tries, ahead of just Boston College and Wake Forest in-league. If the Hokies are forced the match points with Clemson, they will have convert their scoring opportunities to the max. Pay attention to how quarterback Jerrod Evans does in the redzone as Virginia Tech is 8-1 when he throws for multiple scores and 1-2 when he doesn't. It will likely take touchdowns from the Hokies, not field goals, to beat the Tigers.

3. Third Down Success -- Winning a football game can often come down to simply staying on the field offensively and getting off of it on defense. The matchup of Clemson's offense versus Virginia Tech's defense on third downs should be special as the Tigers rank seventh nationally in third down offense while the Hokies slot fourth nationally in third down defense. Offensively, Virginia Tech will need to work towards 3rd-and-manageable situations as Clemson is also fifth in the country in third down defense.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports