The Clemson Tigers hit the road this weekend to face the Wolfpack of NC State.
It’s a game with major implications for the Atlantic Coast Conference. As of now, NC State is the only remaining team undefeated in conference play in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Clemson will look to hand the Wolfpack their first conference loss and regain the top spot in the division. There is a good chance that the winner of this contest earns a spot in the ACC Championship game come December.
Clemson and NC State have met on the football field 85 times. The record in those games is 56-28-1 in favor of the Tigers. The Wolfpack have defeated the Tigers just once since Dabo Swinney became Clemson’s head coach in 2009. Last year’s game was a close one, with Clemson emerging with just a one score victory in overtime. The Wolfpack will look to take a win back in the series and improve from a close loss last year to an important victory this year.
This year’s game could wind up being a defensive battle. While the Wolfpack defense may appear to be trending downward following a loss to Notre Dame that saw them surrender 35 points and over 300 rushing yards, they’re still a unit that has been stout in the red zone throughout the season.
On the other side, Clemson boasts a defense that is in the top ten nationwide in both yards and points allowed per game, coming off a stellar performance against Georgia Tech. They still have something to prove following their loss to Syracuse. That game saw the Tigers succumb to a well-balanced offensive unit, not unlike the one that NC State has fielded this season.
Rush Game Has To Be Strong
NC State will need to do much better against the run this week. Clemson’s rushing attack has been especially potent this season, thanks to the dynamic play of Kelly Bryant (when healthy) and the running back stable of Tavien Feaster, Travis Etienne, Adam Choice, and CJ Fuller.
Quarterback Ryan Finley has showcased excellent efficiency and decision-making ability this season, racking up 12 touchdowns to just one interception. His lone pick came in the loss to Notre Dame. Generating a turnover could be a key to success for the Tigers defense.
The Wolfpack rushing attack has been led by Nyheim Hines. Hines has been one of the ACC’s best running backs this season. He’s averaged over five yards per carry and accrued six touchdowns on the year. His ability to gain consistent yardage against a tough defense will be vital.
In any case, viewers will get to see some of the best defensive talent in college football today. NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb is perhaps the best defensive player in the ACC and certainly one of the best pass rushers in the nation. His 7.5 sacks are top ten in the nation.
Clemson’s defensive line has been grabbing headlines all season and features some elite talent of their own. If Chubb tops the list of the ACC’s best defensive players, then Tiger defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Dexter Lawrence, and Christian Wilkins are all close behind. Their play is a large reason for Clemson’s nation-leading 32 sacks on the season.
We’ll find out which team deserves the division’s top spot when The Clemson Tigers and NC State Wolfpack kickoff in Raleigh for an ACC showdown, this Saturday at 3:30 p.m.