Dan Scott: NC State - Clemson Prediction

by - Correspondent -


Since Philip Rivers arrived in Raleigh two years ago, he's been throwing the
ball around the lot with reckless abandon. This year is no different, with
Rivers leading the nation in pass efficiency (170.8) and now having thrown a
touchdown in 24 of his 30 career starts. The difference in the Wolfpack
offense this season has been the addition of freshman running back T.A.
McClendon, giving State a balance it has lacked for two seasons. McClendon
leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring (10.3 points per game) and is
second in rushing (90.7). For Clemson, it's a matter of which offense shows
up - the conservative, ineffective unit that was showered with boos in the
first half of last week's game against Wake Forest, or the aggressive,
efficient group that played most of the second half. The Wolfpack
traditionally plays very aggressive defense against Clemson, so the deep
throws could be a weapon if quarterback Willie Simmons is on. It would help,
too, if the Tigers could establish a running game.



The defenses have been pretty much neck and neck statistically. State is No.
1 in the ACC (310.5 yards allowed per game), Clemson is No. 2 (316.6). The
Wolfpack allows 128 yards on the ground and 182 through the air, while
Clemson gives up 152 and 164, respectively. The Wolfpack is third in scoring
defense (19.6) to Clemson's fifth (23.3). But even though the Wolfpack leads
the Tigers in all those categories, Clemson's numbers have come against much
stiffer competition.



The Wolfpack has blocked 37 kicks since the start of the 1997 season, 12 of
which have come from Terrance Holt. Clemson's problems haven't been with
blocked kicks, however. They've been with catching snaps and just plain poor
punting. Senior Wynn Kopp, his job on the line, averaged almost 40 yards per
kick last week in what head coach Tommy Bowden called his best performance as
a Tiger. All he has to do now is duplicate it. N.C. State's punting average
(36.9) is equally as bad as Clemson's (36.3). The blocks are the difference.


Whether it's the players involved or some other cosmic reason, Tommy Bowden
seems to make the right moves in his matchups with N.C. State coach Chuck



There are a number of reasons to think N.C. State might win this game.
There's a very good one, however, to think they will lose. Simply put, the
Wolfpack's strength of schedule (86th) is horrendous. State has played one
team with a winning record all year (Texas Tech) and three of its eight wins
have come against East Tennessee State and UMass (Division 1-AA) and Navy.
Beginning tonight, the 'Pack plays the 16th toughest schedule the rest of the
way. It starts that stretch with a loss.


Clemson 34, N.C. State 27

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