Third-ranked Clemson hosts NC State today at Memorial Stadium in Clemson (Noon, ABC). The Tigers have won 12 consecutive ACC games and has won the last four meetings with the Wolfpack in their series and 11 of the last 12.
This game showcases two of the top quarterbacks in the nation in Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, a Heisman Trophy candidate, and NC State’s Ryan Finley, who ranks eighth nationally in pass completion percentage (.695) and 13th in pass efficiency (161.1).
Clemson’s defensive line vs. NC State’s offensive line: Something has to give, right? Clemson is tied for first place in the ACC in sacks with 21, while NC State is tied for second with sacks allowed with five. So who wins this battle of the line of scrimmage? The Tigers rank third in the country in tackles for loss and our lead by senior defensive tackle Carlos Watkins on the defensive front. With Watkins, Christian Wilkins at defensive end, Clelin Ferrell at the other defensive end spot and Scott Pagano and Dexter Lawrence at defensive tackle, the Tigers have one of the best defensive lines in the country, if not the best. The Wolfpack is a young offensive line with three sophomores starting, but they are averaging nearly 200 yards on the ground per game and have allowed just five sacks. However, Clemson’s D-Line is a little better (sarcasm) than William & Mary, Old Dominion, East Carolina, Wake Forest and Notre Dame. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s offensive line vs. NC State’s defensive line: The Tigers seem to be hitting their groove up front. They have allowed just five sacks thus far and in each of the last two weeks they have rushed for more than 200 yards. State is allowing just 91.0 yards per game on the ground. They have 16 sacks on the year. The Wolfpack also have two of the biggest defensive ends in the country in Kentavius Street (6-2, 278) and Bradley Chubb (6-4, 275), who has a team-high 8.5 tackles for loss. Advantage: NC State
Clemson secondary vs. NC State quarterback Ryan Finley: Finley has completed 89-of-128 passes, a 69.5 percentage, fourth best in the nation. He has thrown for 1,045 yards and nine touchdowns and is yet to throw an interception. He averages 209 passing yards per game. Clemson on the other hand leads the ACC and ranks eighth nationally with nine interceptions. The Tigers rank 13th nationally in passes defended at 33, and are sixth in yards allowed with 149.0 yards per game. Opponents are completing just 51.1 percent of their passes, which also ranks 13th in the country. Clemson is eighth in touchdown passes allowed (4) and is fifth in pass efficiency defense (90.2) Advantage: Clemson
Bottom line: Clemson has been battle tested with road games at Auburn, Georgia Tech and at Boston College (the most road victories among any Power Five Conference teams), plus an emotional victory over No. 7 Louisville two weeks ago. So we all know what to expect from the Tigers. The verdict is still out on the Wolfpack. This is the third straight year they have started a season 4-1, but like in the other two seasons their record is more of indication of who they have played as opposed to what they have accomplished. Wins over Old Dominion, William & Mary and Wake Forest have not impressed anyone. The Notre Dame win would have been impressive, but Hurricane Matthew slowed the game down and limited Notre Dame’s explosive offense. It’s supposed to be mostly sunny in the Valley today and Deshaun Watson and the offense will go for their third straight 500-yard game.
Prediction: Clemson 46, NC State 17