Mi­ami reaches ACC ti­tle game, will face Clem­son,

Hur­ri­canes make first fi­nale; Tigers get in with a win.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - SPORTS SUNDAY - By Tim Reynolds

MI­AMI GAR­DENS, FLA. — Af­ter 13 sea­sons of try­ing, Mi­ami is fi­nally headed to its first At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game.

And reign­ing na­tional cham­pion Clem­son will be wait­ing.

No. 4 Clem­son and No. 7 Mi­ami clinched their berths Satur­day in the ACC ti­tle matchup, which will be played Dec. 2 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Clem­son (9-1, 7-1 ACC) wrapped up its third con­sec­u­tive At­lantic Di­vi­sion cham­pi­onship with a 31-14 win Satur­day over Florida State. Mi­ami (8-0 en­ter­ing Satur­day, 6-0 ACC) now is as­sured of its first out­right Coastal Di­vi­sion cham­pi­onship be­cause Vir­ginia lost 38-17 at Louisville.

“It’s the first goal we set,” Mi­ami wide re­ceiver Brax­ton Ber­rios said. “It’s some­thing that no Mi­ami team has done in the ACC. So ob­vi­ously, that’s sig­nif­i­cant in it­self right there. And to look at our other goals and see they’re way more sig­nif­i­cant than just the Coastal, it’s even big­ger.

“No­body’s been able to come to Mi­ami and say, ‘We went to the ACC cham­pi­onship.’ We will be the first team to do that. That’s just huge.”

The Hur­ri­canes learned of their clinch­ing about an hour be­fore kick­off time of their game against No. 3 Notre Dame on Satur­day night. They en­tered the ACC in 2004 and have yet to win a con­fer­ence ti­tle, nor had they man­aged even a di­vi­sion cham­pi­onship since the ACC went to that for­mat in 2005.

Mi­ami en­tered the sea­son as the fa­vorite in the Coastal. Ev­ery­one else in the di­vi­sion now has at least three ACC losses, while Mi­ami is the lone un­beaten in league play.

Mi­ami could have gone to the ACC ti­tle game in 2012 af­ter fin­ish­ing in a three­way tie atop the Coastal, but de­clined the op­por­tu­nity as one of the many self-im­posed sanc­tions re­lated to an NCAA probe into the ac­tions of a rogue for­mer booster.

It’s Clem­son’s fifth berth in the ACC ti­tle game. The Tigers are 3-1 in their pre­vi­ous trips, win­ning in each of the last two sea­sons.

“This is a re­ally, re­ally dif­fi­cult league and in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult di­vi­sion,” Clem­son coach Dabo Swin­ney said ear­lier in the week. “But you know what? Isn’t that the way we want it? To me that’s the way you want it. You know, for years ev­ery­body talked about how bad this league was and couldn’t win post­sea­son and couldn’t win out of con­fer­ence. It’s not re­ally a dis­cus­sion any­more. “

Mi­ami leads the all-time se­ries with Clem­son 6-4 — but the last meet­ing was the worst loss in Hur­ri­canes’ his­tory. Clem­son beat Mi­ami 58-0 on Oct. 24, 2015, a day be­fore the Hur­ri­canes fired Al Golden and a few weeks be­fore they wound up hir­ing coach Mark Richt.

“This was the goal from Day One of this sea­son, whether you want to count that as last Jan­uary or this fall,” Ber­rios said. “Now other goals be­come pos­si­ble. And we un­der­stand those goals as well.”

Mi­ami will be the fifth team in the last five years to rep­re­sent the Coastal in the ACC cham­pi­onship game, fol­low­ing, in or­der, Duke, Ge­or­gia Tech, North Carolina and Vir­ginia Tech. No Coastal team has won the league crown since Vir­ginia Tech in 2010.

Clem­son is rep­re­sent­ing the At­lantic for the fifth time in nine sea­sons. The last time the At­lantic cham­pion wasn’t Clem­son or Florida State was Bos­ton Col­lege in 2008.

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