Clemson vs North Carolina State Preview and Prediction


by - Correspondent -
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Look for Reggie Herring's defense to bounce back after a semi-disappointing showing in Durham last weekend.

The early line on Saturday's Clemson-North Carolina State matchup has the Tigers
as three-touchdown favorites. In response to the inflated points spread, Wolfpack
fans and player have publicly and privately fumed over what they perceive as a
lack of national respect. Here's a hint: bet on the Wolfpack and there's a good
chance you'll be fuming as well.

QUARTERBACK- True freshman Phillip Rivers has already made his mark
in Raleigh with a lightening-quick start, averaging 332 yards per game passing
with 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Rivers' 6-5, 215-pound frame
and uncanny football savvy has made him a perfect fit for offensive coordinator
Norm Chow's spread offense, where quick passes and quicker reads are critical
to the Wolfpack's success. Early success aside, Rivers has yet to face a defense
as aggressive as Reggie Herring's crew. Throw in 80,000 fans and the young quarterback
will be faced with the toughest challenge of his brief college career. NC State
will surely key on Woodrow Dantzler's running ability, so it will be critical
for the Tiger passing game to rebound from last week's lackluster performance
against Duke. Regardless, no defense has been able to contain the Tiger quarterback
thus far. Don't expect that to change on Saturday.

Advantage: Clemson



RUNNING BACKS- All indications are that Travis Zachery will be close
to full speed by Saturday. Should he be slowed by the ankle injury suffered
last week, the Tigers will still be in good shape with backups Bernard Rambert
and Keith Kelly. NC State's rushing attack is led by Ray Robinson, a 5-11, 200-pound
junior with an explosive first step and big play ability. While the Wolfpack
doesn't rely heavily on the ground game, stopping Robinson will be critical
for the Tigers.

Advantage: Even

CLEMSON RECEIVERS VS. NC STATE SECONDARY- The graduation of cornerbacks
Lloyd Harrison and Tony Scott left NC State defensive coordinator Buddy Green
with a very inexperienced unit heading into 2000. Despite its relative youth,
the Wolfpack defensive backs have performed admirably thus far, allowing a respectable
173.3 yards per game through the air. Regardless, Rod Gardner and the Clemson
receiving corps will surely offer the biggest test for the young Wolfpack to
date.

Advantage: Clemson



NC STATE RECEIVERS VS. CLEMSON SECONDARY- Sophomore receiver Koren Robinson
appears to be a star in the making for the Wolfpack. In four games this year,
Robinson already has 27 catches and seven touchdowns, and an impressive 18.4-yard
per reception average. Clemson cornerback Alex Ardley will likely shadow Robinson
in what will be a tremendous challenge for the Tiger junior.

Advantage: Even



CLEMSON OFFENSIVE LINE VS. NC STATE DEFENSIVE LINE- Despite NC State's
4-0 record, the Wolfpack has given up an average of 23 points per game thus
far thanks largely to inconsistent play up front. Freshman Shane Locklear has
been a pleasant surprise early on, leading the team with four quarterback sacks.
Clemson should be able to exploit this apparent weakness and establish a running
game early on.

Advantage: Clemson



NC STATE OFFENSIVE LINE VS. CLEMSON DEFENSIVE LINE- This matchup will
be critical for the Wolfpack if they are to bid for the upset. Behind tackle
Terry Jolly and end Terry Bryant, Clemson's defensive line continues to improve.
Should NC State struggle with the Tiger blitz look for young Rivers to have
a long afternoon.

Advantage: Clemson



LINEBACKERS- NC State's Levar Fisher leads his team with 44 tackles from
his outside linebacker spot. Clemson's Keith Adams, Chad Carson, and Braxton K. Williams
are hands down the quickest, if not the best, linebacking corps in the ACC.


Advantage: Clemson



SPECIAL TEAMS- Clemson's special teams woes continued against Duke, with
Jackie Robinson fumbling a kickoff return and a blocked Jamie Somaini punt.
The Wolfpack already has three blocked punt on the season while Koren Robinson
is averaging 12.3 yards per punt return and a whopping 38.5-yard average per
kickoff return.

Advantage: NC State



COACHING- Chuck Amato's arrival in Raleigh has interest in Wolfpack football
on the rise. Chow's aggressive offense and NC State's penchant for forth quarter
rallies (the Wolfpack has outscored opponents 51-17 in the final frame) has
made for an exciting brand of football that wasn't always present during Mike
O'Cains' tenure. While having 16 days to prepare for Clemson certainly makes
the Wolfpack dangerous, an upset still appears highly unlikely. The Tigers are
rolling and nothing indicates that Tommy Bowden's group is primed for any sort
of letdown. If anything, expect Clemson to be sky-high after a disappointing
showing in Durham last weekend.

Advantage: Clemson

PREDICTION: Clemson- 42 NC State- 17

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