The Final Breakdown

A win over visiting N.C. State on Saturday afternoon would give Clemson its first 10-win regular season since 1981.

WHAT: No. 9 Clemson vs. N.C. State
WHERE: Memorial Stadium (81,500) - Clemson, S.C.
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 17 (3:30 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson by 17
TV: ABC/ESPN2 (Reverse Mirror)

State ranks 35th in the country rush defense with an average of 136.8 yards allowed per contest. It's a figure that seems pretty impressive until you look deeper into the numbers.

Look for Andre Ellington to eclipse the 100-yard mark for the first time since the Boston College game. (Getty Images)
The Wolfpack have played five games since the beginning of October. During that stretch, they've allowed four of their five opponents to have a 100-yard rusher.

Florida State's Chris Thompson carried 25 times for 141 yards. Wes Brown of Maryland had 121 yards on 25 rushes. Gio Bernard picked up 135 yards on 23 touches and Virginia's Kevin Parks ran 25 times for 115 yards.

Also, since sacks count against rushing totals, State's run defense receives a boost from the sack total, which is among the highest in the country.

Usually, a good indicator for a suspect run defense is if the team's leader in tackles is a defensive back. Safeties Earl Wolff and Brandon Bishop are first and second among State defenders in tackles. Wolf is first with 104 while Bishop is second with 88.

Linebackers Rickey Dowdy [weak-side] and Sterling Lucas [middle] are third and fourth on the team with 83 and 66 tackles, respectively.

At times this season, Clemson has struggled to run the ball between the tackles, but the Tigers' run game is still among the top in the ACC.

Clemson ranks fourth in the ACC with 191.2 rushing yards per game [38th in the country].

The Tigers have scored a touchdown on the ground in every game this season. While Ellington is leading the way with eight rushing scores, he's not the only ball carrier reaching pay dirt for the orange and white. Roderick McDowell and Boyd each have five touchdowns on the ground.

Saturday could be the first 100-yard rushing game for Ellington since his 132-yard, one touchdown performance against Boston College in September.


Tajh Boyd is second in the country with a pass efficiency rating of 171.99. Only Oregon's Marcus Mariota has a better rating.

Like Mariota, Boyd has put up some eye-popping numbers this season. The redshirt junior has completed 210 of 309 passes for 2,941 yards with 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Tajh Boyd's assault on the record books continues Saturday against N.C. State. (Roy Philpott)
His favorite target, DeAndre Hopkins, could be the best wide receiver in the country right now. Hopkins is eighth in the country with 109.6 yards receiving per game and tied for 23rd with 6.6 catches per contest.

Hopkins has set several school receiving records, including the single-season mark for touchdown catches. He's currently at 14 and Clemson has at least three games left to play.

There's also the other guy, Sammy Watkins, who is second among Clemson pass catchers with 42 receptions for 561 yards.

He'll face up with All-American cornerback David Amerson in what may be the top 1-on-1 matchup of the afternoon, Amerson plays the field cornerback spot [wide-side of the field] and that's primarily where Watkins lines up as a receiver.

Heading into the season, the State secondary looked to be one of the finest in the conference.

Led by Amerson [6-3, 194], the cornerbacks are big and physical. Dontae Johnson [6-3, 196], Justin Burris [6-1, 193]. And Wolf is one of the top safeties in the ACC.

But the results on the field haven't been all that impressive.

State's pass defense has given up 259.2 yards per game, which ranks 95th in the country. The pass efficiency defense rating of 129.99 is 56th.

Tennessee kicked off the season in the Georgia Dome with 333 yards and two touchdowns through air against State. Since then, four other teams have thrown for over 250 yards.

South Alabama had 263, Miami put up 566, Maryland gained 256 and North Carolina rolled up 358.

Look for Clemson to approach the 350-yard mark that North Carolina hit late last month.

State's pass rush could make things a little difficult for Boyd, who could pad his resume for ACC Player of the Year with one final solid performance in conference play.

The Wolfpack are 10th in the country with three sacks per game. Darryl Cato-Bishop is tied for seventh in the ACC with 5.5 sacks per game.

Still, we'll go with Clemson in this matchup.


There's little question as to whether State is a run-first or pass-first offense. So far this season, the Wolfpack have run 372 rushing plays and 422 passing plays.

Clemson defensive end Corey Crawford scored his first career touchdown last week verus Maryland. (Roy Philpott)
State's ground game is led by the two-headed attack of Shadrach Thornton and Tony Creecy.

Thornton, a true freshman from Liberty County High School in Hinesville, Ga., has 93 carries for 436 yards and two touchdowns.

Creecy, who's a sophomore, has carried 116 times for 434 yards with four scores.

The Wolfpack rank among the nation's worst in rushing offense with 116.8 yards per game. That's 107th in the country and ninth in the ACC.

Since October, State has rushed for over 150 yards as a team just once, and that was last week against Wake Forest. Creecy's touchdown run against the Demon Deacons snapped the Wolfpack's streak of four-straight games without a touchdown on the ground.

Clemson's run defense continues to show signs of improvement.

Since the 339-yard performance by Georgia Tech's option attack, the Tigers have given up 199 yards to Virginia Tech, 51 to Wake Forest, 89 to Duke and 139 to Maryland. And Clemson has gone three-straight games without giving up a rushing touchdown.

Aside from State's tendency to go to the air first, an early Clemson lead could keep the Wolfpack off the ground. This one should go for the Tigers.


After his senior season comes to a close, Mike Glennon will begin prep for the NFL Draft. Like the guy he replaced, Russell Wilson, Glennon will play on Sundays.

Glennon has all the tools that will make him an intriguing prospect for NFL teams. He's tall, drives the ball down the field with accuracy and is capable of hitting all the throws with the necessary accuracy to make him an effective signal caller in the league. Glennon has the intangibles, too.

N.C. State QB Mike Glennon has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this year. (Getty Images)
Through 10 games this season, he's completed 239 of 417 passes for 2,910 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

For his career, Glennon has thrown for over 6,000 yards with 54 touchdowns and has completed over 60 percent of his throws.

Earlier this week, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said Glennon was one of the best drop back passers he's seen during his coaching career. Not bad, considering that he's seen the likes of Robert Griffin III, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman and Ryan Tannehill, all of whom are starting in the NFL right now.

Glennon spreads the ball around to a number of different receivers. Wide receivers Quintin Payton, Bryan Underwood and Tobias Palmer all have over 30 catches this season.

Payton, a T.L. Hanna graduate, leads the team with 42 receptions for 669 yards and Underwood is among the leaders in the ACC with 10 touchdown catches.

The tight ends and running backs are also involved. Tight ends Mario Carter and Asa Watson have over 20 receptions, so does Creecy. Thornton has caught 14 passes this season.

Clemson's secondary has shown moments of weakness this season. Florida State, Boston College and Duke all passed for over 250 yards against Clemson while Furman and Wake Forest just missed the mark.

The Tigers are 48th in the country in pass efficiency defense with a rating of 126.79 and 46th in pass defense [22.1 yards per game].

Led by Victor Beasley, the pass rush continues to show signs of life.

State has a tendency to give up sacks [3.2 per game]. It's a high number, considering the talent that's on the Wolfpack's offensive line. Two factors may contribute to that.

One, Glennon isn't very mobile.

Two, they pass far more than they run, so there are times when there's little doubt as to whether it's going to be a run or pass play.

Still, this State gets the nod here.


State is slightly better than Clemson when it comes to averages in punt and kickoff returns. Nationally, the Wolfpack are 49th and 60th in the respective categories while the Tigers are 98th and 72nd.

Clemson's return game, led by Sammy Watkins, has been quiet thus far this season. (Roy Philpott)
The net punting ranks are much different either -- 54th for Clemson and 65th for State.

State is 81st in punt return defense while Clemson is 22nd. A bulk of that average for the Wolfpack was given up to Bernard, who returned one to the house on the final play of the North Carolina/State game.

But State helps make up the difference in kickoff return defense, where they rank 15th in the country -- Clemson is 45th.

Chandler Catanzaro is 13 of 14 on field goals for the Tigers while Nikilas Slade is 10 of 16 for the Wolfpack.

There's not enough separation by either team to make a definitive call here.


PREDICTION: Clemson 40 N.C. State 24 Top Stories