It is championship week in the ACC.

For the 1st time in 7 years, No. 24 North Carolina (9-3, 6-2) is representing the Coastal Division in the ACC title game, squaring off against No. 10 Clemson (10-2, 8-0). The Tar Heels certainly have earned their way into this spot, but the favored Tigers will be a stout opponent.

Here are 5 concerns for North Carolina heading into the contest.

1. How do you stop Will Shipley?

This will be a tall task, and then some. Will Shipley expressed annoyance at receiving just 6 carries during the 2nd half of Clemson’s heartbreaking, 31-30 loss Saturday against South Carolina, saying “as a competitor, hell yeah, I want the freakin’ rock with 5 minutes to go and the game on the line against our rival.”

That frustration aside, Shipley still was terrific against the Gamecocks, racking up 132 yards and a score on 15 carries — his 5th time surpassing 100 on the ground this season. Shipley is elusive, quick and tough, a lethal combination to defend for any run defense, much less North Carolina’s, the 2nd worst in the ACC.

Shipley has 14 rushing touchdowns on the season. Look for him to add to that against the Tar Heels.

2. Clemson coming in off a loss

This is quite the stat. The Tigers have not lost 2 consecutive games since November 2011 (at NC State and at South Carolina). Even the past 2 years, when Clemson has not been in playoff contention at the end of the season, Swinney and company have bounced back after brutal losses.

A 7-point defeat to eventual national champion Georgia in Charlotte to start the 2021 campaign was followed by wins against SC State and Georgia Tech. An overtime loss to NC State in Raleigh was followed by 2 straight close victories over Boston College and Syracuse. A 27-17 defeat at eventual ACC champion Pittsburgh was followed by 6 straight wins to end the year, including an upset win against eventual Coastal champion Wake Forest.

Even this year, Clemson showed its ability to get off the mat. A blowout road loss to Notre Dame, which sent the Tigers tumbling down from No. 4 to No. 10 in the playoff rankings, was followed by emphatic home wins against Louisville and Miami.

Since 2011, this program simply does not lose consecutive contests. North Carolina will have a hard time changing that.

3. North Carolina pass defense might be what DJ Uiagalelei needs to see

DJ Uiagalelei has shown improvement this season, boosting his completion rate from 55.6% to 62.2%, displaying zip and touch on intermediate throws and becoming more effective as a runner (7 touchdowns this season compared to 4 last year).

But he struggled mightily against South Carolina, completing just 8 of 29 passes for 99 yards, 1 touchdown and an interception. Of his passing yards, 59 came on a 2nd-quarter strike to Beaux Collins, and Uiagalelei followed that up with a touchdown toss to Antonio Williams just 2 plays later.

After arguably the worst aerial performance of his career, Uiagalelei could benefit from facing a porous secondary. Well, consider North Carolina’s pass defense just what the doctor ordered. The Tar Heels are tied for 116th nationally in passing yards allowed per game at 273, and they just allowed NC State redshirt freshman Ben Finley to throw for 271 yards and 2 scores in his first start Friday.

This matchup might be exactly what Uiagalelei needs to get back on track.

4. Clemson defense could make life difficult for Drake Maye

Obviously, North Carolina is nowhere near the ACC title game without its stellar quarterback. Drake Maye ended the regular season tied for 4th nationally in passing touchdowns with 35 against just 5 interceptions. Simply put, the redshirt freshman has been among the top quarterbacks in America.

But the past two weeks have not been his best. In home losses to Georgia Tech and NC State, Maye completed just less than 57% of his passes and threw for an average of 217.5 yards per game (well below his season average of 320.5), just 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.

Faced with pressure from both fronts, Maye struggled, taking 8 sacks and failing to produce the explosive plays that partially defined North Carolina’s offensive attack during the first 10 games. Clemson has a tough pass defense (74th nationally in yards per game allowed at 226.7), but up front, the Tigers pose real issues.

Defensive tackle Bryan Bresee and defensive end Myles Murphy Jr. are among the most talented players in the country at their respective positions, with Bresee returning to action against South Carolina after dealing with an illness. Those 2 are major reasons why the Tigers are among the top 30 nationally in scoring defense and will make life difficult for Maye in the pocket Saturday.

5. Clemson is 7-1 in the ACC title games under Swinney

This program has been here before, a number of times. Since losing to Georgia Tech in the 2009 title game, Clemson has won 7 straight conference championship games, winning 6 straight from 2015 until 2020.

All the routines of Championship Saturday and the accompanying spotlight are things that are virtually 2nd nature for coach Dabo Swinney and the Tigers. That is not the case with North Carolina, however, The Tar Heels have not made the the ACC Championship Game since 2015 under former coach Larry Fedora.

How much will this dynamic impact what goes on during the contest? It is hard to tell, but in the experience department, Clemson certainly has the leg up on the Tar Heels.