Dan Scott: Clemson-N.C. State Prediction


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Just like Clemson, I'm off to a 3-0 start this season. But also like the Tigers, we don't really know how much a 3-0 start means. The level of competition picks up over the next three weeks, so we'll find out more about the team - and my prognostic abilities - very soon.

And now, on with the countdown...

CLEMSON (3-0, 1-0 ACC) at N.C. STATE (1-2, 0-1)

WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL

Tommy Bowden said earlier this week that this game will be Cullen Harper's biggest test. It could also be an indicator as to how healthy the running game really is. Though new defensive coordinator Mike Archer has State playing more zone in than in the past, Bowden expects to see some press-man coverage from Wolfpack corners. That equals a smaller window for Harper's throws to connect. The Wolfpack also has talent in its defensive front seven. So the offensive line will be challenged on both running and passing plays. How well they perform will go a long way in determining this one.

ADVANTAGE - CLEMSON

WHEN STATE HAS THE BALL

Young quarterback Harrison Beck, Saturday's starter, has something of a gunslinger mentality. Of course his problem early has been not knowing which side to sling it to on a consistent basis. Beck has six interceptions and only two TD passes in 110 attempts, and is completing just 53 percent of his passes. Clemson's zone pass defense no doubt will try to confuse Beck. But as Furman showed last week a patient quarterback can hit short passes vs. the zone and move his team downfield. Does Beck have the patience? Will Clemson's pass rush return after having gone AWOL? And what impact will Andre Brown have in the running game? All questions for a Tigers' defense that needs to regain its swagger. Says here it will.

ADVANTAGE - CLEMSON

SPECIAL TEAMS

Each team has a legitimate threat in the return game (Darrell Blackman for State, Ford and Spiller for Clemson). Each team has a perfect, if untried placekicker. Even the punting is relatively even. Clemson's Jimmy Maners has a 5-yard advantage on yardage per kick, but his number of kicks downed inside the 20 (five) is slightly bested by Bradley Pierson (six). The one area to watch - Clemson's opponents average a drive starting on the 21-yard line. State's opponents start at the 28.

ADVANTAGE - SLIGHT TO CLEMSON

INTANGIBLES

Were he still at Boston College, Tom O'Brien would win this category. While head coach there the Eagles defeated Clemson twice, both times in overtime. But this is N.C. State, and he doesn't have a lot of the advantages he had in Chestnut Hill. Most notably he doesn't have Matt Ryan. Still, the Wolfpack is at home, and this the first time this Tiger team has traveled. That's enough in my mind to be just a little wary.

ADVANTAGE - EVEN

BOTTOM LINE

This is the first of a three-game test for Bowden's Tigers. They should win the game, but anything less than their best effort could lead to disaster. There are a lot of reasons to be worried. But again, to me the best thing going in Clemson's favor is that O'Brien can no longer run Ryan into his offensive huddle.

THE PICK

Clemson 31, N.C. State 21

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