Target on Clemson’s back is bigger than ever

Target on Clemson’s back is bigger than ever

Football

Target on Clemson’s back is bigger than ever

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Wednesday's Thoughts

Clemson has won 31 straight games against current full-time members in the ACC. But is that streak in jeopardy this Saturday in Raleigh?

I think so.

The ninth-ranked Tigers hit the road for the first time this season on Saturday, as they visit the Wolfpack of NC State. Before the season began, this was a game many of us already chalked up as a victory, including myself. But let’s be honest, few believe this is a guaranteed victory anymore.

Clemson’s lack of offense has thrown that all out the door. Sure, the Tigers’ defense is one of the best in the nation, but how much longer can we expect them to hold an opponent out of the end zone? Also, can we expect the offense to stop scoring for the other team.

The offense is responsible for 12 of the 21 points Clemson has allowed in the first three weeks of the season, including nine directly.

“We have to stop scoring for the other team,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.

The Tigers (2-1, 1-0 ACC) have to start scoring also. They can’t keep expecting to win games 14-8 every week and win another ACC Championship.

In their two games against Power 5 opponents, the Tigers have scored just 17 points. That is not going to get it done this week.

“We have to play well. It is that simple,” Swinney said. “We have to play well in all three phases, and if we do that, then we will have a chance to win the game. If we don’t, it is going to be a long day.”

Clemson has not had a long day against a true ACC opponent in almost four years. That came at Syracuse on October 13, 2017. Since then, the Tigers have rolled over just about everyone in their way.

Sure, they have had a few close calls here and there, but Saturday’s game at Carter-Finley Stadium could be their biggest challenge in a long, long time.

When is the last time you heard Swinney say, “It could be a long day,” when facing an ACC opponent? He knows his offense has to help out his defense this week.

Is Clemson the more talented team of the two? Sure, there is no debating that fact. But NC State (2-1, 0-0 ACC) is playing better as a complete team.

Granted, their two wins have come against South Florida (1-2) and Furman (2-1), but they dominated both of them. The ‘Pack is averaging 455.0 yards per game and allowing 261.0 on defense.

More than anything, they are an experienced team playing at home and playing with a lot of confidence.

“This is a very good NC State team. This is a very good team, complete,” Swinney said. “This has to be one of the more experienced teams in the country for sure. They have a ton of guys that have played a lot of ball on both sides of the ball. Nine of eleven back on offense and had ten of eleven back on defense, now eight of eleven after a couple of guys have got hurt. They have a few guys that have transferred in that were starters, as well.

“So, lots of experience with this team. They are incredibly well coached. They play hard. They play tough. They play smart.”

I know, some of you are thinking, “Well, that is all coach speak.” And you are right. It is coach speak, but this time Swinney just isn’t sugarcoating things.

This NC State team is for real, and if the Tigers do not get things going on offense, Clemson might lose its first game to the Wolfpack in 10 years.

Football season has finally arrived. Time to represent your Tigers and show your stripes!

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