Tigers 16-2 since 2015 in big games
On one side there is third-ranked Clemson. The Tigers are used to playing in big games. Since 2011, the Clemson Football Program has been one of the most consistent programs in the country.
The Tigers have played in and won conference championship games, major bowl games, the College Football Playoff and national championship games.
On the other side there is No. 15 NC State. The Wolfpack has come close a few times, but seldom has not gotten over the hump, sitting just behind perennial powers Clemson and Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I think it is about finishing the big games for us, now,” NC State head coach Dave Doeren said. “We have played really well in some of those matchups and obviously we were able to win at Florida State last year, which was a huge game at the time.
“We have had other games where maybe nationally they were not looked at as big games, but they were big games to us, where we played really well. It is about finishing.”
And that is something the Wolfpack has not done the last two times they played Clemson. Two years ago, at Death Valley, Kyle Bambard missed a 33-yard field as time expired in regulation that would have won the game. The Tigers eventually won in overtime.
Last year, Clemson safety K’Von Wallace made two crucial plays in the final seconds, including an interception on the last play of the game, to secure the Tigers’ seven-point victory in Raleigh. N.C.
“We put ourselves in places to win, some of those close games in particular against Clemson,” Doeren said. “They made the plays at the end that we needed to make. So, that is really what it is about, it is finding a way to finish somebody off whether it is on defense, offense or special teams with that key play.”
Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) has been able to find ways to win in the big games, no matter who the opponent is. This Saturday’s 3:30 p.m., game against the Wolfpack at Death Valley will be just be another one in a long line of big games over the last seven years.
The Tigers and NC State (5-0, 2-0 ACC) are two of just eight undefeated teams remaining in the FBS, and the last two that will play each other in regular season. The game is also a de facto Atlantic Division Championship Game, as the winner grabs control of the division and has the inside track to playing in the ACC Championship Game in December.
“Obviously, we have played in big games before,” Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell said. “Already this season we have played in big games. You take Texas A&M, you can take the Syracuse game playing at home. So, we just have to focus on our plan and not such focus on them.
“Obviously, they are a very good team. So, we just have to focus on the details that we need to so we can be successful, because at the end of the day, we feel like our best is better than anyone else’s. So, we play to a standard. If we do that then we feel like we will come out victorious.”
Since the start of the 2015 season, Clemson has played in 18 games which can be considered big games against ranked opponents at home or on the road, conference championship games, the CFP or the national championship game. In those 18 games, the Tigers are 16-2.
What has been the key? The Tigers, for the most part, have kept their composure no matter what the situation.
“I feel composure is going to be a very, very big thing,” Ferrell said. “Obviously, last year, things got kind of chippie. Composure is always big.
“Anytime you get two teams that are fighting that are hopeful to have that chance to control their destiny in the division, and that is our next goal to win the division, I feel like it is going to be very, very big. We just kind of have to focus on what you can control and not focus on getting into it with them and things like that. Just focus on winning your matchups and things like that.”