By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Here is a position-by-position breakdown of today’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff (ESPN) between No. 3 Clemson at NC State.
Quarterback: Quarterback Pete Thomas runs the Wolfpack’s no-huddle fast tempo offense. He currently ranks fourth in the ACC in total offense at 247 yards per game. NC State also brings in backup Bryant Shirreffs who is more of a runner to be used in Wildcat formations. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd had a rather quiet game against S.C. State, look for him to bounce back tonight and try to get things going early tonight. Boyd had eight total touchdowns against NC State last year. Advantage: Clemson
Running back: Matt Dayes leads NC State with 127 yards and three scores and Tony Creecy, who has rushed for 103 yards and has one touchdown, is the starter. Clemson’s Rod McDowell will start tonight’s game. He left the SC State game with a concussion but he has been cleared to play. Look for the Tigers to also use a steady dose of Zac Brooks and you could see some of C.J. Davidson. Advantage: Clemson
Wide receiver / Tight ends: Freshman wide receiver Marques Valdes-Scantling has emerged as a big-play threat and has been getting the ball a lot for NC State. He has 12 catches for 174 yards, while senior Rashard Smith has 12 catches for 145 yards. Smith is used a lot in the running game as well. The loss of Charone Peake will hurt the Tigers when it comes to depth, but there are still enough playmakers for Boyd to choose from such as Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Adam Humphries, Germone Hopper Stanton Seckinger, Sam Cooper, Jordan Leggett, Mike Williams and T.J. Greene. Advantage: Clemson
Offensive line: Rob Crisp (6-7, 300) and right tackle Tyson Chandler (6-7, 334) lead an offensive line that has helped NC State average 212 yards per game on the ground and allowed only two sacks. This is a very big offensive line, but also has some inexperience at center and right guard. Clemson’s offensive line played well against Georgia and then slacked off against S.C. State, especially the first team, and struggled some without right guard Tyler Shatley in the lineup. Shatley (foot injury) will be back for tonight’s game and so to should the Clemson offensive line. Advantage: NC State
Defensive line: Defensive end Art Norman was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his play against Richmond when he tallied a sack, had four tackles, caused a fumble and recovered a fumble. At 6-3, 266 pounds, NC State senior Darryl Cato-Bishop can cause issues for the Clemson O-Line with his speed and power. Clemson’s front seven has been the talk of the conference through the first two games and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett leads a defensive line that is three-deep at every position. Clemson has already recorded seven sacks this year and has gotten great push up front in wins against Georgia and SC State. Advantage: Clemson
Linebackers: NC State is thin at linebacker. Middle linebacker Robert Caldwell, who leads the team in tackles, and strong side backer D.J. Green did not play a down at the position last season. MJ Salahuddin and Brandon Pittman both will see playing time on the weakside. Clemson’s Spencer Shuey is one of the smartest players in the ACC and he leads the Tigers with 23 tackles. Middle linebacker Stephone Anthony is finally playing like the five-star prospect he is and is second on the team with 21 tackles. Advantage: Clemson
Secondary: New Clemson secondary coach Mike Reed returns to the place he spent the previous six years at. Left Corner Dontae Johnson, who has played in more than 40 games and started 18, says he looks for to seeing his old coach, but then it comes about playing the game. The Wolfpack has no interceptions through two games. Clemson’s secondary was much maligned in the preseason, but through two games the Tigers have recorded three interceptions and have returned two—Martin Jenkins and Darius Robinson—for touchdowns. Advantage: Clemson
Special teams: Kicker Chandler Catanzaro needs eight points to become Clemson’s all-time leading scorer, while punter and kickoff specialist Bradley Pinion is averaging 41.5 net yards per punt and has recorded 12 touchbacks on 13 kickoffs. The lone return also went five yards deep into the end zone. NC State’s kicker Niklas Sade kicked four field goals in the win over Louisiana Tech and was named ACC Specialist of the Week for his performance in the win over Richmond. He is 7-7 on kicks this year with a long of 48 yards. He also has 13 touchbacks on 15 kickoffs. Punter Wil Baumann is tied for seventh in school history in career punts (146) and seventh in yardage (5,611). He is averaging 41.6 gross yards on seven punts so far this season. Advantage: Clemson
Prediction: If Clemson takes care of the football and executes its game plan, the Tigers should win this game rather easily. Look for NC State to throw a couple of different things at Clemson both offensively and defensively considering they have not shown all of their cards in wins over La. Tech and Richmond. But the Wolfpack’s deficiencies on offense and defense play right into Clemson’s strengths. The Wolfpack has inexperience at center and right guard on the O-Line, which plays right into Clemson’s hands with guys like Jarrett, D.J. Reader, Carlos Watkins, Josh Watson and DeShawn Williams. The back end of the ‘Pack’s defense will also be exposed by Boyd, Watkins and Bryant. Clemson 45, NC State 27