The Final Breakdown

A win at N.C. State on Saturday would make Clemson the first ACC Atlantic champion to go through a season undefeated against divisional opponents.

WHAT: No. 7 Clemson at N.C. state
WHERE: Carter-Finley Stadium (57,583) - Raleigh, N.C.
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 19 (3:30 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson -7.5
TV: ABC/ESPN

The Tigers could also hit the 10-win mark for the first-time in school history since 1990, when Ken Hatfield's squad finished with a 10-2 record.

Led by third-year head coach Dabo Swinney, No. 7 Clemson is 9-1 [6-1 ACC] and two weeks away from a second trip to the ACC Championship in three years.

N.C. State [5-5, 2-4 ACC] needs to beat Clemson on Saturday and Maryland next weekend to qualify for a bowl. The Wolfpack are under the direction of Tom O'Brien, who's in his fifth season as head coach.

Clemson holds a seven-game winning streak over N.C. State -- the longest in the series history between the two schools.

CLEMSON PASSING GAME VS. N.C. STATE SECONDARY, PASS RUSH
For the last two weeks, Tajh Boyd has been infected by the interception bug. After throwing just three in the first eight games, Boyd's had four passes intercepted in the last two.

This week, he faces a N.C. State defense that leads the country with 20. The Wolfpack have an interception in every game but one.

Cornerback David Amerson has accounted for 10. That figure is the N.C. State single-season record for interceptions, which had stood for 73 years.


Tajh Boyd will have to stay away from cornerbck David Amerson, who leads the nation in interceptions with 10. (Roy Philpott)
Amazingly enough, Amerson actually has three more interceptions than any other player in the country.

Free safety Brandon Bishop is second among Wolfpack defenders with four and strong safety Earl Wolff has two.

Despite all the picks, the N.C. State pass defense is middle of the road, statistically. The Wolfpack are No. 40 in the country in pass efficiency defense and 54th in pass defense.

The Clemson passing offense still ranks among the nation's elite. Chad Morris' group is 12th in the country with 307.6 yards through the air per game. That's top among ACC teams.

Boyd could be without his favorite target, Sammy Watkins, who suffered an AC joint sprain. The Walter Camp Award semi-finalist will be a game-time decision on Saturday.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback will still have DeAndre Hopkins, Dwayne Allen and Jaron Brown to look to, regardless of Watkins' status.

Allen was named a semi-finalist for the Mackey Award this week. Hopkins and Brown remain consistent targets, particularly when the Tigers are trying to convert on third-down. And Clemson remains as one of the nation's best in that category. The Tigers are No. 17 in the country in third-down conversion rates with a 48.43 clip.

Unlike the previous two opponents, don't expect N.C. State to be shy about putting pressure on Boyd. Seven Wolfpack defenders have multiple sacks this season. Linebacker Terrell Manning leads the team with 4.5.

As a team, N.C. State is 20th in the nation with 2.7 sacks per contest. Clemson averages 1.8 sacks allowed, which is 56th.

Boyd may not eclipse 300 yards this week -- it's only happened twice against the Wolfpack this season. For him, the key is to keep the ball away from the red jerseys and take what the defense gives him.

It'll be a tight matchup, especially if Watkins can't play, but the nod goes to the orange and white.

ADVANTAGE:

N.C. STATE PASSING GAME VS. CLEMSON SECONDARY, PASS RUSH
In school history, only Phillip Rivers and Russell Wilson have thrown more touchdown passes in a single season than Mike Glennon, who has 20.


In school history, only Phillip Rivers and Russell Wilson have thrown more touchdown passes in a single season than Mike Glennon, who has 20. (Getty Images)
But it's been rough sailing over the last three games. Against Florida State, North Carolina and Boston College, Glennon's thrown one touchdown and four interceptions. The redshirt junior has passed for just 484 yards over the stretch.

This season, the wealth has been spread among several receivers.

Wide receiver T.J. Graham leads the team with 31 catches for 553 yards and five touchdowns.

Running back James Washington has also caught 31 passes. Wide receivers Tobias Palmer and Jay Smith have 30 and 29 catches, respectively.

Preseason All-ACC selection George Bryan has more catches [112] than any other tight end in N.C. State history. His 15 touchdown catches is second among active FBS tight ends. He has only 19 catches this season.

The N.C. State passing offense is No. 64 in the nation with 229.7 yards per game and 63rd with a pass efficiency rating of 131.01.

Against the pass, Clemson has fared pretty well.

The Tigers are a respectable 42nd in the country in pass efficiency defense with a 121.06 rating and 20th in pass defense with 190.1 yards allowed per game.

There have been bumps along the way -- Troy, Florida State and North Carolina all threw for over 290 yards. But none of the other seven opponents eclipsed the 200-yard mark.

Though Clemson's pass-rush has been pedestrian this season, there's a chance for the Tigers to improve their numbers. N.C. State has allowed 2.5 sacks per game. Part of that can be attributed to Glennon's lack of mobility.

Look for Andre Branch and Co. to disrupt Glennon. And look for Clemson to take this matchup.

ADVANTAGE:

N.C. STATE RUN GAME VS. CLEMSON FRONT SEVEN
A foot injury to sophomore running back Mustafa Greene has stifled the N.C. State offense this season. Greene, who rushed for a team-high 579 yards a year ago, injured his foot during spring practice.


Brandon Thompson and Clemson's front-four will be under the spotlight again Saturday afternoon in Raleigh. (Getty Images)
In his absence, Washington has stepped up. He leads the team with 676 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. The junior rushed for over 100 yards against Georgia Tech, Central Michigan and North Carolina.

N.C. State has averaged 148 rushing yards at home and just 56 on the road. The Wolfpack rushing offense is No. 111 in the nation with 102 yards per game.

Meanwhile Clemson continues to show signs of weakness against the run, even though it was noted last week a bulk of the rushing yards allowed were to Wofford, Auburn and Georgia Tech.

Last week, Wake Forest, which was one of the worst teams in the ACC establishing the ground game, put up 180 yards and two scores on 42 carries.

With an eye on limiting possession by the Clemson offense, Washington could have upwards of 25 carries against the Tigers. But Clemson typically plays better against teams that utilize pro-style offenses, like State.

Here's to believing the Tigers should keep that trend going.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON RUN GAME VS. N.C. STATE FRONT SEVEN
After sitting out against Georgia Tech, Andre Ellington bounced back from injury to have a productive afternoon against Wake Forest. He rushed 25 times for 98 yards and a touchdown in the 31-28 win over the Demon Deacons.

Ellington has rushed 171 times for 843 yards and nine touchdowns this season, all are team-highs.


Andre Ellington has rushed 171 times for 843 yards and nine touchdowns this season, all are team-highs. (Roy Philpott)
Run-happy Georgia Tech put up 296 yards on Oct. 1. In the five games since, N.C. State has given up a total of 504 yards on the ground. Over that five-game stretch, the Wolfpack have allowed just four touchdowns as well.

It's usually not a good sign when a team's top tackler is a defensive back, and that's the case for N.C. State. Wolf has a team-high 85. In fact, three of the Wolfpack's top five tacklers are defensive backs. Middle linebacker Audie Cole is right there behind him with 82 this season.

Despite the season's tackling statistics, N.C. State is decent against the run. The Wolfpack run defense is 48th in the country with 135.6 yards allowed per contest.

We'll give a slight nod to N.C. State.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON SPECIAL TEAMS VS. N.C. STATE SPECIAL TEAMS
Chandler Catanzaro exorcised the demons from last year's overtime loss at Auburn with a game-winning kick as time expired last week.


Chandler Catanzaro exorcised the demons from last year's overtime loss at Auburn with a game-winning kick as time expired last week. (Roy Philpott)
The redshirt sophomore kicker is second in the ACC with 87 points scored. That makes him the 23rd highest scorer in the country [8.7 points per game]. He's also tied for 12th in the nation with 1.5 field goals per contest.

It's not often that teams return a kick or a punt for a touchdown against Swinney's team. But it's happened twice this season. Once on a kickoff and once on a punt -- Wake Forest returned a punt to the house in Death Valley last Saturday.

And one of the nation's premier return-men will take the field against the Tigers on Saturday.

Graham is 12th in the nation and second in the ACC with 12.42 yards per punt return. The senior wide receiver is 73rd in the country with 22.51 yards per kickoff return.

N.C. State is one of two FBS teams starting a freshman placekicker and punter.

Kicker Niklas Sade is 7 of 12 on field goals this season with a long from 45. Punter Wil Baumann averages 37.3 yards per punt.

Despite the youth in their kicking game, N.C. State gets the advantage, especially with Watkins' availability in question.

ADVANTAGE:

PREDICTION: Clemson 31 N.C. State 20


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