NC State Takes on #3 Clemson in Raleigh

(3) Clemson Tigers (7-0, 4-0 ACC) at NC State Wolfpack (5-2, 1-2 ACC)

Saturday, October 31, 3:30 PM ET, ABC/ESPN2

Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC

Line: CLEM -10.5 Over/Under 51.5

*Stats listed from

After what Clemson did to Al Golden and the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium, the Wolfpack should be wary of the fury headed their way. Golden is out of a job, the Canes have hit rock bottom in another year that was supposed to signal their triumphant return to relevance, and Clemson is steamrolling its way to a CFP berth.

NC State was on the receiving end of an embarrassing Clemson blowout last season, losing 41 – 0 in Death Valley. A season later, the Pack have a chance to avenge that loss and take out a top five team when NC State takes on #3 Clemson in the state capital on Halloween.

NC State must, and I mean must, get the offense going at a clip better than their last home outing. After thirteen points against Louisville, then thirteen more on the road at Virginia Tech, State found their legs in Winston-Salem in a sound beating of Wake Forest (35 – 17).

Stats say this isn’t the game for either team to put up big numbers. NC State and Clemson come into this game ranked numbers three and four in total defense thus far this season.

Clemson has earned such a ranking playing teams like Georgia Tech and Notre Dame, while State’s best win is at Wake. Both teams have a shutout to their credit; Clemson’s above-mentioned whitewashing of Miami, and NC State blew out Eastern Kentucky 35 – 0 in Raleigh.


Deshaun Watson versus Jacoby Brissett should be a fun positional matchup to watch this week. Both come in highly rated in pass efficiency with Watson number eight (69.3%) and Brissett number seventeen (67%). Brissett has taken better care of the ball, but again has had the luxury of facing only three FBS opponents so far.

NC State will once again try to maintain possession of the ball in this game, keeping Watson neutralized on the sideline. State slipped to second in the nation behind keep away kings Stanford in the TOP mark. State holds the ball over 34 minutes per game. State held the ball only 27 minutes in the Wake win, but this may be attributed to fast scoring in the first quarter. The Pack scored 28 straight to put the game on ice early against the Deacons, and that fast start has been crucial in their five wins. (Take out the Group of Five opponents, and State slips to 74th in TOP)

Early Start

The first half in games has been key for State on either end of the spectrum this season. In a win or a loss, NC State has seen their fate told in the first half, and a lot of times in the second quarter.

The second half box scores of NC State’s ACC games look eerily similar. They have traded touchdowns or field goals in the latter halves of games in which they were already beaten, or had already put out of hand in the case of Wake.

If Clemson is given any sort of room to burst out of its cage in the first half, then this trend will likely continue. Clemson’s defense is not the unit one wants to mount a comeback against. The crowd at Carter-Finley will come out wound as tight as a rubberband on Halloween, but if the Wolfpack can’t score early or hold down the Tigers, it’s going to get ugly real quick.

If NC State can keep it close at the half, then they have a realistic shot. NC State’s Matt Dayes and Clemson’s Wayne Gallman will likely have a lot of the opponent’s jersey dye on their helmets by the end of this one. These two will figure heavily into who controls the clock and the game. Clemson has fared better in its consistency in running the ball this year. When NC State has withered in its run game, it has lost its identity and the game.


NC State will not lose by 41 this year. I feel confident in that, but that’s where my confidence in the Wolfpack ends. That first half pendulum that has swung the way of the winner in State’s games thus far is going to go the way of the Tigers this week. If not, we’re in for a game. If Clemson hasn’t put a chokehold on the game by halftime, then NC State can go into the locker room with all kinds of confidence.

NC State defined their season in 2012 with an upset at home versus the third ranked team at the time (FSU). If they can keep the game within ten for three quarters, and match the Tigers’ physicality, get the run game going, stifle Watson…

It’s going to take a lot to slow this Clemson team down, but it’s college football. No one is safe, and it’s Halloween. Everyone’s entitled to one good scare, and Clemson is no different. State has nothing to lose, while Clemson is redefining “Clemsoning.” It’s game on in Raleigh.

I’m picking the Tigers 37 – 14. If Clemson scores 37 in the first half it wouldn’t shock me. They look like a team ready to pounce on anyone in their way. If they’ve got their eyes on nemesis Florida State at home next week, then the Wolfpack could take advantage and ruin their season, putting “Clemsoning” right back in the national zeitgeist for all the wrong reasons.
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