The two main questions heading into today’s game between NC State and No. 3 Clemson are the Tigers’ finally in rhythm offensively after back-to-back 500-yard games the last two weeks, and is the Wolfpack defense for real.
The good news is both questions will be answered by what happens in Death Valley this afternoon.
In each of the last two games, Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) tallied more than 507 total yards and 42-plus points. NC State on the other hand is ranked eighth nationally in total defense.
“I think this is an excellent defensive front,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “I think this group and Auburn are the two best defensive lines that we’ve probably played. They’re active. They do a good job getting after the quarterback.
“They’ve got eight starters back. They’ve got good experience. They’re all seniors and juniors. So it’s a really solid team.”
However, the Tigers have been on a roll offensively. Against No. 7 Louisville they scored five touchdowns of 20 or more yards, and all of them in just 12 total plays. Last week against Boston College, Clemson had three plays of 50 or more yards in the opening quarter and scored five touchdowns of 29 or more yards
“You can’t give them explosive plays. Shoot, they scored five touchdowns in 12 snaps (against Louisville),” NC State head Dave Doeren said. “You can’t live that way. They’re outscoring their opponents 69-6 in the first quarter. They’re out of the gate fast and explosive, tremendously talented. You can have them defended. Their guys are good players.
“We’ve got to make plays when we’re there like we have, we have to tackle well, make them earn what they get. We can’t give them anything.”
In the last two games against the ‘Pack, in which the Tigers outscored NC State by a combined score of 97-41, they have scored eight touchdowns by 24 yards or more.
Clemson averaged 6.2 yards per play in 2014 against the Wolfpack in a 41-0 victory in 2014, and then 7.8 last year in a 56-41 win in Raleigh, North Carolina last year.
The Tigers have totaled 1,116 yards in the two games.
One guy who has helped make all of those plays the last two years is quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Gainesville, Georgia native threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns, while also running for 62 yards and two more scores in the 2014 games. Then in last season’s meeting in Raleigh he did even better as he rushed for 54 yards and a score, while throwing for 383 yards and five touchdowns in a 56-41 victory.
Watson ran for a 24-yard touchdown and then threw TD-passes of 57, 42, 40, 35 and 36 yards to five different receivers–Hunter Renfrow, Charone Peake, Deon Cain, Zac Brooks and Ray Ray McCloud—a year ago, while throwing touchdown passes of 56 and 31 yards to Mike Williams in the 2014 game.
This year, Watson currently leads the ACC with 18 touchdown passes.