Dan Scott: Clemson - N.C. State Prediction
Tigers looks to avenge last year's defeat on Thursday night to the Wolfpack.
When Clemson Has The Ball
When the season began, it was understood North Carolina State would have problems along the defensive line because of graduation and injuries. But no one expected the problems the Wolfpack is experiencing with its linebackers and secondary. With a pass defense ranked near the bottom of Division I-A, State has struggled in what some thought would be a season which eclipsed last year's 11-win campaign. While Clemson has the talent at wide receiver to further exploit State's lackluster secondary - and they will - don't be surprised if the Tigers don't open the game trying to establish the run. Word is there will be a change at two of the offensive line positions, trying to take advantage of both a resurgent Yusef Kelly and the problematic State defensive front. Sound strategy, if they can pull it off, because it keeps you-know-who off the field for the 'Pack.
ADVANTAGE - Clemson
When N.C. State Has The Ball
You-know-who, of course, is record-setting quarterback Philip Rivers. Despite the defensive struggles, and even some consistency in the play of his offensive line, Rivers directs a potent offense which is capable of scoring points in bunches. Jerico Cotchery is Rivers' No. 1 target through the air, while tailback T.A. McClendon - when healthy - helps take the pressure off the passing game. But don't underestimate the Clemson defense here. Though it struggled in the third quarter with Virginia's short passing game last week - the kind of passes Rivers' is deadly at completing - John Lovett's crew found a way to stop the bleeding long enough for the offense to get back in the game. Also, anyone else notice the defense beginning to walk with just the hint of a swagger?
ADVANTAGE - Even
Until Aaron Hunt either comes around or is replaced by someone more successful, it's hard to give Clemson any break in this category. Plus, Virginia was the first opponent to find a way to take advantage of the Tigers' new wide-gap spread on the punt team. And need we even bring up Virginia returning a kickoff past midfield last week at precisely the wrong time?
ADVANTAGE - N.C. State
Is Bowden on his way to putting to rest, once and for all, any job-related rumors? Is Chuck Amato's shine in Raleigh wearing off just a bit?
ADVANTAGE - Even
Strange as this would have sounded a few weeks ago this game is more important for N.C. State than Clemson, for this reason: With two losses in conference already, a third at this stage of the season and you can kiss all your preseason goals goodbye. Expect the 'Pack to be stoked. Also expect that emotion to wear off, and for Clemson to win. For the first time this season, I'm going against my preseason radio picks. Tigers pull away midway through the fourth quarter.
Clemson 38, N.C. State 27
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.