A spot in the ACC Championship Game is at stake when the fourth-ranked Tigers travel to No. 20 NC State Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kick at Carter-Finely Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.
Where: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.
Records: Clemson 7-1, 5-1 ACC; NC State 6-2, 4-0 ACC
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Radio: 105.5 in the Upstate (Clemson Tigers Radio Network); SiriusXM Radio Ch. 81
Latest Line: Clemson favored by 8 points
Series: Clemson leads 56-28-1
First meeting: Clemson won 24-0 in 1899 in Rock Hill
Last year: Clemson won 24-17 (overtime)
Injury Report: Out for Season: Richard Yeargin, DE, Neck; Logan Rudolph, DE, Shoulder; Cole Renfrow, TE, Knee; Greg Huegel, PK, Knee. Out this Game: Garrett Williams, TE, knee; Marcus Edmond, CB, foot; Mark Fields, CB, foot; Nolan Turner.
Three story lines
The winner of the game will put itself in position to advance to next month’s ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C. Clemson needs a win over the Wolfpack, plus a win over Florida State on Nov. 11 to win the ACC Atlantic Division. NC State needs a win over Clemson and just one more in their final three games to win the division.
Last year, a lot of people around the country felt NC State should have beaten the Tigers because they outplayed them. But did the Wolfpack really outplay the Tigers? Clemson totaled more than 400 yards of offense and controlled most of the game. Deshaun Watson completed 39-of-52 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns, while Mike Williams caught 12 passes for 146 yards. However, five turnovers—four in the red zone and another returned for a touchdown—allowed NC State to stay in the game. But this year has been “The Leave No Doubt” Tour at Clemson. The Tigers have already disposed of Louisville and Virginia Tech—two teams experts thought should have beat Clemson last year—and they’re ready to do the same to NC State.
Clemson leads the nation in sacks with 32, while NC State’s offensive line ranks ninth nationally in not allowing sacks. They have given up just nine scaks and none to an ACC team. The Tigers have a big, strong and athletic defensive line that is full with experienced players such as Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell. Like Clemson, NC State’s offensive line is talented and big. They also have a lot of experience with fourth-year juniors and seniors up front.
NC State players to watch
Bradley Chubb, DE: NC State enters the game ranked 34th in sacks with 2.50 per game. Senior end Bradley Chubb posts the 7th-best individual sacks mark in the nation (1st in the ACC) with 0.80 per contest. Of the Wolfpack’s 20 total sacks, 17 have come from defensive linemen, led by Chubb’s 7.5.
Ryan Finley, QB: Finley’s nation-leading streak of consecutive throws without an interception ended at Notre Dame last week, when he threw a pick-six in the third quarter. The streak ended at 339, the second-best mark in ACC and NC State history. For his career, Finley has thrown just nine interceptions in 687 attempts for a 1.31 interception avoidance mark – the school record. Last season, Finley threw 139 consecutive passes to open the season without throwing an interception. That was the longest for any first-time Wolfpack starter before throwing his first pick
Nyheim Hine, RB: Nyheim Hines is the only player in the ACC to post 3 straight 100+ rushing games in 2017. With at least five games remaining, the junior is just 346 yards away from 1,000 yards. If he were to break the 1,000-yard mark, it would give NC State a 1,000-yard rusher for the second straight season, as Matthew Dayes, now with the Cleveland Browns, rushed for 1,166 yards in 2016. It would mark the first time NC State has had a 1,000-yard rusher in back-to-back seasons since the 1977 and 1978 campaigns, when the ACC’s all-time leading rusher Ted Brown tallied 1,251 and 1,350 of his 4,602 career yards. In fact, it would be only the fourth time ever that the Pack has fielded 1,000-yard rushers in consecutive seasons and only the second time ever it was accomplished by two different players (1973 – Willie Burden and 1974 – Stan Fritts).
NC State Scouting Report
Eight games into the 2017 campaign, NC State has turned the ball over just four times – the lowest turnover mark in the FBS. The Wolfpack has two miscues in the opener against South Carolina, one against Louisville and another at Notre Dame. NC State ranks second nationally with just one INT for the year. Only six times in school history has the Pack turned the ball over a single-digit total in the first seven games and three of those have been under Dave Doeren. The Pack’s four turnovers through eight games is the best mark in school history. Only two times in school history has a Wolfpack squad had five turnover free games in a season and both of those have been under Doeren’s direction.
Doeren and his staff have quietly built an offensive and defensive line that rival the best in the ACC and perhaps the nation. The defensive line has gotten much publicity. That unit helped the Wolfpack rank 8th in the FBS in rushing defense last season and 19th halfway in 2017. All four of the Wolfpack’s starting d-linemen have had projected first-round draft grades by some outlets and two – Bradley Chubb and B.J. Hill – are on the watch lists for the Bednarik, Nagurski and Outland awards.
Senior all-purpose back Jaylen Samuels is on track to break or come close to breaking several career records at NC State. The Charlotte native now boasts 41 career touchdowns – the third best mark in school history. He needs just 11 more to break the record set by Hall of Famer Ted Brown from 1975-78. With 19 more catches, he would break Jerricho Cotchery’s all-time reception record and he needs to catch a pass in the next four games to set the school record for consecutive games with a catch. He currently ranks 5th in the FBS with 36 consecutive games with a reception. The last time Samuels didn’t have a catch was against Wake Forest on Nov. 15, 2014. After tying Torry Holt’s school record with 15 catches in the season opener vs. South Carolina, Jaylen Samuels had a dozen grabs in the win at Florida State – tying the No. 4 mark in school history.