Clemson vs. NC State prediction: The Playoff starts now


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Clemson and NC State kick off at 3:30 p.m.
Clemson and NC State kick off at 3:30 p.m.

An ACC Atlantic Division title and a spot in the College Football Playoff are on the line for Clemson Saturday. Can they continue their mastery over N.C. State and fly out of Raleigh with a win?

Clemson has won the last five games of the series and 12 of the last 13. The Tigers have won the last seven games in Memorial Stadium, including last year’s 24-17 overtime win at Clemson. The Tigers have won the last two in Raleigh.

With a victory on Saturday, the Pack would control its own destiny and be one win away from clinching a trip to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte in December. A Clemson win, however, would give the Tigers tiebreaker privileges with the Tigers having just one conference game remaining, against Florida State.

GAME 9 CLEMSON (7-1, 5-1) VS. NC STATE (6-2, 4-0)

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4 , 2017

WHERE: Carter-Finley Stadium (57,600)
TIME: Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.
TV: ABC Joe Tessitore, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe
RADIO: CLEMSON RADIO NETWORK (Don Munson, Rodney Williams, Sideline: Reggie Merriweather)
XM Radio Ch. 81

SERIES HISTORY
Clemson leads 56-28-1
at Raleigh: Clemson leads 20-16
at Clemson: Clemson leads 25-11
at Neutral Site: Clemson leads 11-1-1
Last Meeting: Clemson 24-17 (OT), 2016
Last NCS Win: 37-13, 2011
Last 10 Meetings: Clemson leads 9-1
Streak: Clemson won 5 in row, 12 of 13

NOTABLE

*Orange shoes – In 1967, Clemson painted its shoes orange for the NC State game in Death Valley and the Tigers upset the 10th ranked Wolfpack, 14-6. Clemson clinched a tie for the ACC championship with the victory 50 years ago. Clemson painted its shoes orange because NC State had featured a defense that had worn White shoes during the season. It was the highest-ranked team Clemson defeated in Death Valley in the Frank Howard era.

*Purple jerseys – In 1991, Clemson wore purple jerseys for the first time since the 1940s in a 29-19 upset victory over NC State. NC State was undefeated and ranked 10th in the nation entering the game against Ken Hatfield’s Tigers. Nelson Welch kicked a then-record five field goals in leading Clemson to the victory. Clemson went on to win the ACC Championship.

*Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney has a 21-2 record against ACC teams from North Carolina. That includes a 7-1 record against NC State. Swinney is 11-0 at home, 9-2 on the road and 1-0 at neutral sites against ACC teams from the Tar Heel State. Swinney’s only losses to ACC teams from North Carolina are at North Carolina in 2010 (21-16) and at NC State in 2011 (37-13). He has won 14 games in a row against ACC teams from North Carolina. In eight of those 14, the Tigers have scored at least 40 points and 12 of the 14 scored at least 33.

*FULL MOON: The last time NC State played a game at Carter-Finley Stadium, there was a full moon. That night, Thursday, Oct. 5, the Wolfpack defeated No. 17 Louisville, 39-25. Since then, the Wolfpack has played a pair of road games with a bye week in between. The moon is scheduled to be full again on Saturday, but with a 3:30 kick most of the game will be played in the daylight.

WHY NC STATE CAN WIN

Sure, revenge is a factor. NC State feels like it should have beaten Clemson last season, but I go back to what a Clemson player once told me – all of that goes out the window when you get hit in the mouth, after that it’s just football.

Eight games into the 2017 campaign, NC State has turned the ball over just four times - the lowest turnover mark in the FBS. The Wolfpack had two miscues in the opener against South Carolina, one against Louisville and another at Notre Dame.

NC State has allowed just nine sacks this season and only eight on quarterback Ryan Finley (the other was when WR Jakobi Meyers attempted a pass against Florida State and was called for intentional grounding). And almost half the sacks allowed came in the first game of the season, as South Carolina had four. So in the seven games since then, the Pack QB has been sacked just four times in seven games. Finley has not been sacked a single time in ACC play. Additionally, NC State’s first four ACC foes have only been credited with three TOTAL quarterback pressures.

NC State is currently starting nine seniors on defense. That’s the biggest group of seniors starting on defense in the nation and no other FBS school is starting more than seven (Penn State, Maryland, and UMass). The Pack’s entire front seven (DL, LB & Nickel) are all seniors, as well as both starting cornerbacks. Overall, the Wolfpack returned 11 senior starters from last season - the highest number of returning senior starters in at least the past 25 years. In addition, two starters from 2015 who sat out last season came back (one of whom - CB Johnathan Alston - is now starting).

WHY CLEMSON CAN WIN

Clemson ranks in the top 20 in the nation in defense in 14 different statistical categories. That includes a No. 6 ranking in scoring defense (13.1), seventh in total defense (282) and seventh in pass defense (163). The Tigers are 18th in the fourth major category, rushing defense. The Tigers have been especially dominant through three periods. Against Louisville, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest Clemson gave up two touchdowns in each game in the fourth period after the game had been decided. The Tigers have given up just 12 touchdowns all year and seven of them were in the fourth quarter of games the Tigers led by at least 20 points.

Clemson has one of the most balanced attacks in the nation in terms of yardage. Clemson averages 446.4 yards per game, 219.8 yards rushing and 226.6 passing. The difference in yardage between rushing and passing for the course of the season is just 55 yards. The Tigers have 1813 yards passing and 1758 rushing so far this year for 3571 total. Only two Clemson teams have averaged at least 200 yards a game rushing and passing. The Tigers showed their balance against Georgia Tech with 221 yards rushing and 207 passing for 428 total. It was the third time this year Clemson had at least 200 of each in the same game and the 17th time Clemson has done it in the last three years. The Tigers are 34-0 under Dabo Swinney when they have at least 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing in the same game. All-time in Clemson history the program is 84-0-1 with at least 200 yards of each.

Clemson is also used to big games. State is 2-1 against ranked teams this season, but both of those teams (FSU and Louisville) are no longer ranked. State hasn’t played a game of this magnitude in a long time, while Clemson has already been on the road at Virginia Tech and Louisville this season. Over the last five seasons, the Tigers have played in College Football Playoff games, two title games, ACC Championships and big games against Top 10 teams on the road. They are used to this.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN

This has been a hard one for me to figure out. I know Clemson’s defense is good, but the Syracuse game showed some holes that I think NC State can exploit. It’s a home game for the Pack, they have revenge and they want to prove that last week’s loss at Notre Dame was a fluke. Plus, they get all-everything offensive player Nyheim Hines back. A lot of the intangibles point to NC State.

But here’s the kicker – I don’t know if NC State is as good as Virginia Tech, and the Tigers went into Blacksburg and dominated most of the night. Clemson’s game plan each week has been to get up early, ride the defense and the running game to a solid if not spectacular win.

I think NC State will take their shots, and they’ll have some success. But don’t look for this to be a high-scoring affair. Also, it will be interesting to see how the Tigers handle the secondary with both Marcus Edmond and Mark Fields out.

The Pack will hit a big touchdown, kick some field goals and this one will be tight most of the day. But the Tigers find a way to make it happen. A healthy Kelly Bryant and Clemson’s running game will have success, but this might be the coming out party for the Clemson passing attack.

FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 24, STATE 16


GUEST PREDICTIONS

Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 23-17 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 31-21 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 20-10 Clemson
Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 31-21 Clemson
Daniel Shirley - Sports Editor, Macon Telegraph - 24-14 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 24-23 Clemson

GameActualDavid HoodMickey PlylerTony CrumptonNikki HoodBrandon RinkDaniel ShirleyPigskin Prophet
Kent St56-3 CU47-6 CU56-7 CU49-14 CU47-13 CU52-3 CU51-10 CU55-10 CU
Auburn14-6 CU24-20 CU27-20 CU28-21 CU28-20 CU27-24 CU24-10 CU27-17 CU
Lou47-21 CU31-23 CU27-24 CU31-21 CU27-20 CU34-27 CU28-17 CU34-20 CU
BC34-7 CU47-6 CU38-10 CU45-14 CU38-10 CU48-10 CU40-10 CU47-10 CU
VT31-17 CU27-16 CU31-17 CU28-17 CU30-20 CU24-20 CU24-17 CU30-17 CU
Wake28-14 CU34-10 CU34-14 CU31-10 CU35-13 CU38-13 CU38-7 CU37-13 CU
SU27-24 SU34-13 CU34-17 CU38-14 CU30-10 CU41-15 CU35-10 CU33-10 CU
GT24-10 CU27-17 CU23-17 CU31-14 CU24-10 CU28-17 CU24-10 CU30-14 CU
Points - 7157117119

* Points: 3 pts for best prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 1pt for picking the correct winner


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