Clemson - NC State Preview

by - Correspondent -

Clemson takes their 2-0 ACC record into Raleigh Saturday night to face a slumping North
Carolina State Wolfpack squad. The Wolfpack, blown out by Florida State and Wake Forest in
their last two outings, will be trying to climb back into the ACC race behind senior
quarterback Jamie Barnett. A win for Clemson further cements the Tigers as a serious
contender for a top-three finish in the ACC.

QUARTERBACKS- Entering his senior season, Jamie Barnett was billed as
one of the stars to watch in the Atlantic Coast Conference. To say that his play in the
Wolfpack’s first four games has been disappointing would be quite an understatement.
The fact is that Barnett and the entire NC State offense has been awful, averaging only
222-yards per game, last in the ACC. Barnett has completed only 50% of his passes for a
paltry 578 yards with five interceptions and only two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Woodrow
Dantzler was forced to take over as triggerman in the Clemson offense when Brandon
Streeter fractured his collarbone against North Carolina. In 2 ½ quarters against the Tar
Heels, Dantzler shook off early jitters and performed admirably. The sophomore rushed for
82 yards and a critical touchdown while passing for 131 yards, including a 49-yard
touchdown strike to Rod Gardner. Most importantly, Dantzler didn’t make any critical
mental errors in an effort that will undoubtedly boost his confidence. Despite his solid
performance last Saturday, Dantzler will be the "X" factor when the Tigers take
on NC State. While he has the natural athletic ability, Dantzler is still short on
experience. Barnette has been bad, but he’s had the battlefield experience to get the
edge in this category.

Advantage: NC State

RUNNING BACKS- Travis Zachery finally returned to the form he showed
last season on Saturday, rushing for 129-yards and a touchdown on 28 carries against UNC.
Now the challenge will be for the Tigers to put together some measure of consistency in
the rushing attack on a game-to-game basis. NC State has struggled at establishing the
running game, with the Wolfpack averaging 104-yards on the ground and only 3.1-yards per
carry behind running backs Rahshon Spikes and Ray Robinson. When you have the #7 rushing
team (Clemson) in the league going against, #8 (NCSU), don’t expect to seean
offensive explosion on the ground.

Advantage: Even

like the Chicago Bulls miss Michael Jordan. Without his All-American wide-out to throw to,
Jamie Barnette has struggled to find a consistent target in the Wolfpack offense. As a
result, NC State comfortably brings up the rear in the ACC in passing offense, averaging
only 118 yards per outing. Even with his numerous drops, Chris Coleman has been the only
Wolfpack receiver to show signs of life thus far with 23 receptions. Meanwhile, the
Clemson secondary is as strong as it has been in years. Tiger fans beware: Robert Carswell
has NFL-caliber talent as a junior. Hopefully, he’ll decide to stick around for
another season.

Advantage: Clemson

Wolfpack wide-outs, Clemson’s receiving nucleus of Rod Gardner, Mal Lawyer, and Brian
Wofford continues to shine. While NC State boasts two seniors at the corners with Lloyd
Harrison and Tony Scott, the Tiger’s size and speed will be quite a test for the
Wolfpack secondary.

Advantage: Clemson.

offensive line has failed to consistently control the line of scrimmage in their first
four games. Jamie Barnette has been harassed in the backfield and Wolfpack running backs
have struggled to find holes. Clemson’s front four have been pushed around in the
first three games but were solid against North Carolina.

Advantage: Clemson

offensive line bounced back strong against UNC after being dominated by Virginia Tech.
Quarterbacks Brandon Streeter and Woodrow Dantzler had enough time in the pocket to pick
apart the Tarheel secondary while Travis Zachery was able to find daylight behind
effective run blocking. The Wolfpack’s young defensive line allowed a previously
dormant Wake Forest team to explode for sizable chunks of yardage on the ground. None the
less, NC State is still third best in the ACC at stopping the run.

Advantage: Even

LINEBACKERS- NC State has implemented a new 3-4 scheme this season
with limited effectiveness. The Wolfpack linebackers have shown potential, but their
overall play has been somewhat soft. Clemson’s young linebacking corps came up big
against UNC behind Keith Adam’s five tackles for loss. The Tigers will have to make
up for their inexperience at the position against NC State with continued speed and
aggressiveness in order to contain Barnette.

Advantage: Even

SPECIAL TEAMS- While much has been made of Clemson’s field goal
kicking woes, it is important to note that the Tigers have been solid in every other facet
of special teams play. Mal Lawyer exploded for a 32-yard punt return against North
Carolina and the Tigers continue to be effective on punt and kickoff coverage. The kicking
accuracy has remained poor, but the snaps, holds, and special teams coverage has been
mistake-free. As for NC State, their best offense may be their punt-blocking unit as
Wolfpack special teams have been largely responsible for two of the team’s three
victories. Against both Texas and South Carolina, NC State capitalized on a total of four
blocked punts to put up points while the Wolfpack offense was virtually non-existent. The
Tiger punt unit will have to be on top of their game to fend off the Wolfpack’s
dangerous punt rush.

Advantage: NC State

COACHING- When Brandon Streeter went down against North Carolina,
Clemson fans let out a collective groan. But instead of folding up the offensive tent, the
Tiger offense exploded for 24 points with Woodrow Dantzler at the helm. While Dantzler
certainly deserves credit, Tommy Bowden and Rich Rodriguez should take a bow for play
calling that allowed the inexperienced sophomore to gain confidence in leading the team to
a huge win. Mike O’Cain is a capable coach, but the Tiger staff is as ingenious as
any in the nation.

Advantage: Clemson

Without a doubt, the biggest factor in Saturday night’s game will be the play of
Woodrow Dantzler. While his scrambling ability has never been questioned, it will be
critical for Dantzler to be sure he doesn’t have an open receiver before taking off.
The Tigers will need a solid all-around effort to defeat a Wolfpack team that should be
hungry after two straight losses.

PREDICTION: Clemson- 24 NC State- 16

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