LOCATION: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C. (57,500) [Info]
RADIO: 104.9 WCCP FM
SPREAD: N.C. State by 4.5.
COACHES: Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden is 46-32 in his seventh season with the Tigers, including a 3-3 record against State. N.C. State's Chuck Amato is 41-25 in his sixth season with the Wolfpack and is currently 2-3 against Clemson.
SERIES: Overall, Clemson has a 45-27-1 lead in the series against N.C. State, including an 19-11 record in games played at Clemson and a 16-11 in games played in Death Valley. Clemson is 11-11-1 against NC State in neutral site games and 15-15 in games at Raleigh over the years. NC State has an 11-7 lead in games played in Carter-Finley Stadium, including two of the last three games played there.
N.C. STATE KEY PLAYER: Jay Davis. It's no secret that State boasts one of the most talented defensive fronts in the ACC, but the play of QB Jay Davis is usually the key component in a Wolfpack win or loss. Davis threw five interceptions last year against Clemson in a 26-20 setback, including one on the final play of the game deep in Clemson territory. Surprisingly, he leads the ACC in passing yardage at over 250 yards/game this season, but watch the turnovers. Davis has six touchdown passes to go along with five interceptions already this season.
OTHER PACK PLAYERS TO WATCH: S Garland Heath - In addition to his end zone interception to save last week's win in Atlanta, Heath had eight tackles, broke up a pass and was on the field for 80 of his team's 91 defensive plays. WR Brian Clark - He caught four passes for 148 yards against Georgia Tech, but none bigger than an 80-yard dash on a slant route in the fourth quarter that proved decisive. He also had a 40-yard scoring pass on a flea-flicker play in the first quarter, enabling him to earn ACC receiver of the week honors. TE T.J. Williams - Though he doesn't have the big-play moments of some teammates, Williams is the Wolfpack's leading receiver with 18 catches for 216 yards. He's a big target that changes how defenses must scheme the N.C. State passing attack.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're halfway through the season. I think the open date came at a good point because we played five games down to the last play of the game. So just from a mental fatigue standpoint, hopefully we can go out and be refreshed a little bit. It gave us a couple of extra days of preparation, which hopefully will also be obvious Thursday." -- Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden on having a week off before Thursday night's game at N.C. State.
FORECAST: Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-70's Thursday evening at Carter-Finley Stadium under mostly cloudy skies. Winds will be out of the north at 7 mph.
INJURY REPORT: Clemson: TE Cole Downer (spleen) out, WR Kelvin Grant (ACL) out, OT Chris Capote (foot) out. N.C. State: CB Jeremy Gray (toe) doubtful, S Miguel Scott (ankle) out.
KEY STAT No. 1: To say that N.C. State's pass defense has been outstanding this season would be an understatement. In four games, opponents have completed just 54-of-134 (40%) passes to go along with five interceptions.
KEY STAT No. 2: Seven of the last eight games played between these two schools have been decided by eight points or less and nine of the last 10 games Clemson has played overall have been decided by seven points or less. Clemson is also the only school in the nation to have all five of its games this year decided by six points or less.
* Wearing Out His Welcome?
* Dean One of the Best
* Whitehurst Remains Positive
* Risk vs. Reward
* Not All Gloom and Doom
* Monday Player Audio
* What We are Hearing...
* Tommy Bowden Press Conference
* Monday Clemson Football Notebook
* Game Notes
* Sunday Clemson Football Notebook
* Depth Chart
WHAT TO WATCH: When Clemson has the Ball: Lost in the shuffle of a the Wake Forest game was the fact that Clemson's offense began to click on all cylinders for the first time this year. The Tigers rushed for 150 yards and passed for over 300. Do that again Thursday night and Clemson likely walks out of Carter-Finley Stadium with a win. N.C. State likes to use press-man coverage which means there will be opportunities for Charlie Whitehurst to connect with wide receivers Curtis Baham, Chansi Stuckey and Aaron Kelly with the deep ball, but the Tigers will also remain patient early before taking their chances. The Wolfpack has two the most talented defensive ends in the country in Manny Lawson and Mario Williams. Keeping those two off Charlie Whitehurst all night will be difficult. Also keep in mind N.C. State is one of the most penalized teams in the country (89.5 yards/game) and can be undisciplined on both sides of the ball, giving opponents the ability to quickly recover from their own mistakes.
When N.C. State has the ball: The Wolfpack have a plethora of talented skill players, including WR Tramain Hall, TE T.J. Williams and freshman RB Toney Baker. The trio has the potential to be as explosive as any three players in the conference, but QB Jay Davis holds all the cards. If Davis is under control, making good decisions and solid throws, he can be extremely productive in N.C. State's new "West Coast" offense under first-year coordinator Marc Trestman. The Tigers, like last year, must get pressure on Davis and force him into poor decisions. The Clemson defense must also continue to reduce missed assignments and missed tackles. Redshirt freshman Mike Hamlin should provide more stability in a secondary that gave up two long touchdown passes to Wake Forest. Surprisingly, State has struggled on the ground this year, ranking 102nd in the country in rushing offense at just 96.2 yards per game.
Special Teams: There's a night and day difference on Clemson's special teams this year. Jad Dean continues to be one of the top kickers in the country, missing just one field goal in 14 attempts, but Cole Chason continues to struggle with his punting, averaging just 35.7 yards per punt. The same could be said of the return game, where Chansi Stuckey's punt return for a touchdown against Texas A&M has kept the Tigers among the league leaders all year long, but the lack of success on kickoff returns has consistently given Clemson poor field position. Meanwhile N.C. State ranks first in the ACC in kickoff coverage, and RB Darrell Blackmon is averaging an ACC-leading 35.5 yards on kickoff returns. Wolfpack kicker John Deraney is also solid, connecting on all 12 of his PATs and seven field goals this season.
Intangibles: Does the week off give Clemson a better outlook on the rest of the season, or more time to dwell on missed opportunities? The Tigers are coming off three gut-wrenching losses in a row, including two overtime defeats at the hands of nationally ranked Boston College and Miami, and a hard-to-swallow loss at Wake Forest. Tommy Bowden's message to his team this week has been simple: don't panic. "That's where I think as the head coach you have to keep a perspective – don't panic," Bowden said. "Even though we're sitting here 2-and-3, it's how we lost those three. Let's look at how we lost those three games and how to correct that. It surely hasn't been penalties; it hasn't been playing dumb. We've been playing smart; we've been playing hard, not turning the ball over."
DON'T FORGET! The Tiger Pre-Game show will be broadcasting Thursday afternoon from Playmakers in Raleigh, starting at 1:30 PM. For those Clemson fans making the trip, stop by for food and drinks. For those that are staying at home, tune in at 104.9 FM in upstate South Carolina, or on the world wide web at wccpfm.com to catch all the pre-game coverage you can handle.
TE T.J. Williams
DE Manny Lawson
Head coach Chuck Amato
QB Jay Davis