CLEMSON — The Clemson Tigers will face a Virginia Cavalier team in the ACC Championship Saturday (7:30 p.m., ABC) that they have not seen on the field since 2013.
But even though there have been coaching changes at Virginia and none of the current members of either team were in high school the last time the two teams met, there is still an appreciation for what the Cavaliers have accomplished.
"It's a solid team, good defense. Seems like they're really disciplined," quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "They have some good size, especially at linebacker. The D-line plays really hard. Haven't had a chance to really dig super deep into them. It will be my first big day breaking them down. Just wanted to get a feel (Sunday) to watch a game, see how the game went."
Even though the Tigers have just started their film study of the Cavaliers in preparation for the game, Lawrence is familiar with the Cavalier program, and quarterback Bryce Perkins, from watching games on TV.
"Throughout the year if I get the chance to watch any games just on TV, if they happen to be on, if we're done playing or before our games, I'll watch," Lawrence said. "Especially if it's an ACC team. Other than that, throughout the year I've seen some on Virginia just because we played common opponents obviously throughout the year. I usually am watching their offense, watching the other team's defense on film. I haven't really had an opportunity to watch a lot of film on their defense until now.
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"It's been something new for sure. I've seen a lot of their offense, Bryce Perkins, who is a really good player. I've seen him on offense because he's always playing the teams we're playing."
The stakes for both teams are different as they prepare to do battle in the ACC Championship.
The Tigers are looking to win an NCAA record fifth straight conference title game and earn a berth in the College Football Playoff for a fifth straight season. The Cavaliers are looking to make a return to national relevance.
With a few in the national media now saying the Tigers would still be in the playoffs with a loss in the ACC Championship, Clemson's motivation for winning remains win and you're in.
"Our team has done a really good job this whole season of creating energy. I mean, there really is a energy every game," Lawrence said. "For us, Coach Swinney said it, it's really important for us to win every game to make sure we punch our ticket to hopefully the playoff, national championship. ... We're going to have plenty of motivation for us to do that.
"I think if we don't win this game, we definitely won't make it in, is my opinion. Like you said, that's going to be important for us to win this game."
The Tigers will once again face a team that they are expected to beat handily, favored by 29 points against the Cavaliers. But Lawrence understands they will get every team's best shot.