Final: The top-ranked and undefeated Clemson Tigers held off the No. 10 North Carolina Tar Heels for a 45-37 victory in the ACC football championship game Saturday night in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Tigers' next stop will be the College Football Playoff — the only intrigue left is whether Clemson (13-0) will go into the four-team playoff as the No. 1 seed.
Clemson's Heisman hopeful, quarterback Deshaun Watson, led the way once again as he passed for 289 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 131 yards and two scores.
Down 12 midway through the fourth, North Carolina was driving until quarterback Marquise Williams fumbled and Clemson recovered. That led to a Tigers field goal that put them up 45-30 with 2:14 to play. Even though the Tar Heels added another score to pull within 45-37, Clemson was then able to salt it away for the victory.
After Deshaun Watson's 2-yard touchdown run put Clemson up 42-23, North Carolina quickly answered with a five-play touchdown drive to pull within 12 points.
Third quarter: Clemson led North Carolina 35-23 at the end of the third. The Tar Heels pulled to within 12 points late in the third after Clemson's Deshaun Watson threw an interception. Marquise Williams then capped off a six-play drive with a 1-yard keeper TD. ... North Carolina opened the second half with an impressive drive, but a red-zone interception by Marquise Williams gave Clemson the ball at its own 3. The Tigers then went the length of the field — 97 yards in 13 plays — and scored on Wayne Gallman's 3-yard TD run. An unsuccessful fake punt on the Tar Heels' next possession set up the Tigers with a short field, and they capitalized as Deshaun Watson hit Artavis Scott for a 35-yard TD pass to put Clemson up 35-16.
Second quarter: Clemson led 21-16 at halftime. QB Deshaun Watson did most of the work on the Tigers' 96-yard TD drive in the second quarter, and he capped it off with a 9-yard run that put Clemson up 14-9. Later, with Clemson back to punt on fourth and 15, the Tigers punter inexplicably tried to run for the first down and was stopped way short. That gave the Tar Heels great field position, and they capitalized with a touchdown to take a 16-14 lead. ... Clemson went back on top 21-16 late in the half on a 1-yard pass from Deshaun Watson to Jordan Leggett.
First quarter: North Carolina led 9-7 after the first quarter, on the strength of an early field goal and a 46-yard touchdown pass from Marquise Williams to T.J. Logan (the two-point conversion failed). Clemson's TD, a 16-yard strike from Deshaun Watson to Wayne Gallman, was sandwiched between the two Tar Heels scores.
The 2015 ACC football championship provides one of the weekend's most intriguing matchups as the top-ranked and undefeated Clemson Tigers go up against the No. 10 North Carolina Tar Heels.
A Clemson victory would reserve the Tigers a spot in the College Football Playoff, while a Clemson loss would raise plenty of questions.
In that case, would the ACC-champion Tar Heels have a strong enough case for inclusion in the playoff? Would a one-loss Clemson team be more deserving? It would leave the playoff committee a lot to consider before picking the final four teams for the playoff on Sunday morning.
Here's how to watch and follow Saturday's game:
What: No. 1 Clemson Tigers (12-0, 8-0 ACC) vs. No. 10 North Carolina Tar Heels (11-1, 8-0) in Atlantic Coast Conference championship
When: 5 p.m. PST Saturday
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina. Capacity: 75,412
TV channel: ABC (In Portland area: KATU 2: Comcast 2/702; DirecTV 2; Dish 2)