Clemson and NC State will play in the de facto Atlantic Division Title game in 3:30 Carter-Finley Stadium. Clemson has beat NC State 12 out of the last 13 times, but NC State is always a tough opponent that scares Clemson. NC State is 23rd in the Sagarin poll and 20th in the official College Football Playoff Poll.
NC State is returning 21 out of 22 starters, has the best defensive line Clemson has played all year, and is in the lead for the division. They are also incredibly ‘balanced’, rushing 292 times and passing 291 times this year.
Ryan Finely has thrown one interception all year on a freakish play and has emerged as a legitimate mid-round prospect this year. He can make all of the throws, is extremely smart, and will make Clemson pay if they make mental errors in coverage.
Running back Nyheim Hines is an excellent player but if he cannot play against Clemson from last game’s injury – NC State could be forced to be one dimensional.
Clemson is first in the nation for sacks with 31 of them, but NC State has only allowed nine sacks all year.
The best player on NC State’s offense is Jaylen Samuels. The RB-FB-WR-TE (all purpose player) is on the AP and ESPN midseason First All-American team.
NC State’s Achilles Heel is their red zone offense (74% scoring rate) and their kicking game (6 for 11). Clemson is 5 for 11 on field goals this year (caused in part by the injury to Huegel). Clemson has an 88% red zone success rate – which is better than NC State but less than the 90% goal that Coach Swinney referenced.
On the defensive side of the ball, NC State has a legitimate top ten draft pick in defensive end Bradley Chubb. Their defensive line is full of depth in the eight-man rotation, and Clemson’s offensive line will have to play their best game of the year on Saturday in order to win.
Make no mistake, NC State is a formidable foe and they are in the lead for the division for a reason. Clemson will have to play their best game of the year (not “one of” but “the”) in order to win the division.
Prediction: Clemson 24 NC State 21