No. 15 NC State at No. 3 Clemson
Clemson and NC State battle for first place in the ACC’s Atlantic Division on Saturday (3:30 p.m.) when the third-ranked Tigers host the No. 15 Wolfpack at Clemson’s Death Valley.
The winner will control the division and will have the inside track to representing the division at the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 1.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson
Records: Clemson 6-0, 3-0 ACC; NC State 5-0, 2-0 ACC
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Radio: 105.5 in the Upstate (Clemson Tigers Radio Network); Sirius XM Radio Ch. 193
Latest Line: Clemson (minus-17)
Series: Clemson leads 57-28-1
Streak: Clemson has won six straight
Last year: Clemson won 38-31 in Raleigh, N.C.
Three story lines
Clemson has rushed for 1,321 yards the last four games, for an average of 330.3 yards per outing. Running back Travis Etienne is leading the way with 654 of those yards and nine touchdowns. Can the Tigers keep it going against an NC State defense that ranks third in the ACC against the run, allowing just 107.4 yards per game? The Tigers rushed for 471 yards and had touchdown five touchdown runs of 50-plus yards.
The Wolfpack leads the ACC in passing average (335.4 ypg), passing yards (1,677), yards per attempt (8.9) and attempts per game (37.6). Quarterback Ryan Finley, who leads the conference in passing yards (1,621), passing average (324.2), completions (130) and completion percentage (69.5), will test a Clemson secondary, that despite the good overall numbers, has not played a quarterback of his caliber this season.
The NC State offensive line has allowed just two sacks in the first five games this season. Clemson’s defensive line has 20 sacks in six games. Something must give, right? Can the Tigers terrifying defensive front break through and win the battle at the line of scrimmage or does the Pack’s offensive line win the battle for a second straight year?
NC State players to watch
Ryan Finley, QB: Finley stands atop ACC leaders with 324.2 passing yards per game … the No. 5 best mark in the FBS. The graduate student has passed for 1,621 passing yards. He now ranks fourth in school history with 8,198 career passing yards.
Kevin Harmon, WR: Harmon is the ACC’s leading receiver in terms of yards, averaging 106.8 yards per contest … the No. 6 mark in the FBS. He now ranks 5th in school history with 2,013 career yards. Over the last four games, Harmon has averaged 125.3 receiving yards and has gained 100-plus yards three times.
Germaine Pratt, LB: Pratt currently leads the league in tackles per game with 9.8. He has led the Pack in tackles in every game this season and was named the ACC Linebacker of the Week after recording a career-best 13 tackles against Boston College from his weakside position.
NC State scouting report
In the three seasons under offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz (2016-present) the Wolfpack has rushed the ball 51.7-percent of the time and thrown it 48.3 percent of the time. This year, NC State has thrown the ball 188 times and has rushed it 188 times.
Of 131 completions this season, 120 have been caught by the Wolfpack wideouts … a mark of 91.6 percent. Jakobi Meyers (2nd, 7.5/game), Harmon (3rd, 6.6/game) and Emeka Emezie (10th, 4.0/game) rank in the ACC’s top 10 in catches per game.
After gaining just 323 rushing yards in the first three games of the season (107.7 ypg), the Wolfpack has rushed for 401 (200.5 ypg) in the last two. In the win over BC, NC State rushed for season-high 225 yards as a team.
NC State is leading the FBS in third-down conversion percentage this season, converting at a .609 rate. The Wolfpack has reached a first down on 42 of its 69 third down tries.
With Finley, the Pack has converted 37 of 58 (.638) of its third downs this season. On third down, Finley is 37-of-54 (.685) for 480 yards with three touchdowns. Of Finley’s 37 completions on third down plays, 33 of those netted a Wolfpack first down. In addition, he has carried the ball on four third-down plays and converted each run into a first down. The Pack has not given up a sack on third down this season.