This contest will decide who will sit atop the ACC Atlantic Division. The Tigers will win the division if they defeat NC State and beat a struggling Florida State next week. For the Wolfpack to win, they would need to win their final three ACC games, including with a win over Clemson.
Both teams had opposing results last weekend. Clemson thumped Georgia Tech 24-10, while NC State was blown out by a score of 35-14 to Notre Dame. The Wolfpack will look to bounce back Saturday afternoon. Though the Wolfpack faithful should have some concerns due to them giving up 318 yards on the ground to the Fighting Irish, with Clemson having a top 25 rushing attack. NC State may be more confident than people expect due to their close encounter with the Tigers last year, losing a thrilling 24-17 game.
NC State, with a 6-2 record, no longer has College Football Playoff hopes, but a division title would be a substantial accomplishment. The Wolfpack will need to keep Clemson from having too many big plays throughout the contest. Especially with the dual-threat ability that Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant presents.
“They’re an explosive team,” NC State head coach Dave Doeren said. “One of our goals against Clemson is to not allow explosive plays for touchdowns.”
Offensively, NC State need their offensive linemen to contain the exceptional Clemson defensive line so their quarterback Ryan Finley can find his receivers downfield. NC State running back Nyheim Hines sprained his right ankle midway through the first quarter of last week’s game and the team will need him to produce in order to have a chance. Though according Doeren, Hines and his injured ankle are good to go.
“Yeah, I think by the time we get to Saturday, unless we have a setback, I feel real confident about it,” said Doeren regarding Hines’s explosiveness. “Progression-wise, he’s doing really well so far in the recovery.”
The Tigers were ranked number four in the first College Football Playoff rankings that were released on Tuesday night. NC State is ranked at 20th, so Clemson will look to add a third top 20 win to their resume. Additionally, they cannot afford another hiccup as they try to move into positon so they can defend their national title.
“This is playoff football,” said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. “That’s what it really comes down to.”
So be sure to tune in Saturday afternoon for an ACC matchup with a great deal of postseason implications!