NOV. 6, 2010 - N.C. STATE AT CLEMSON
MEMORIAL STADIUM (81,500)
HEAD COACH: Tom O'Brien (16-21 at N.C. State, 91-66 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 - offense, 5 - defense, 1 - specialist)
KEY PLAYERS: QB #16 Russell Wilson (5-11, 201), WR #13 Owen Spencer (6-3, 185) , TE #84 George Bryan (6-5, 265), LB #42 Audie Cole (6-5, 239), LB #56 Nate Irving (6-1, 235), LB #41 Dwayne Maddox (6-2, 234)
LAST MEETING: 2009 - Clemson 43 N.C. State 23
ACC KICKOFF QUOTE: "We got to have a winning season and go to a bowl game. After my first three years at B.C. there is no difference in the total number of wins the only difference is that I won four games, four games then eight games. That's a little different than 5-6-5." - N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien.
NOTES: State returns the lowest number of returning starters in the league this year: 13, including seven on offense, five on defense and one specialist.
Offensively, it begins with quarterback Russell Wilson. While suffering a somewhat disappointing sophomore campaign, remember this is the guy who was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year for his performance two seasons ago. And it wasn't as if he was terrible last season when he completed over 59 percent of his passes for 3,027 yards and an ACC-best 31 touchdowns. He also finished 15th nationally in passing efficiency.
Defensively, the question is how quickly Nate Irving can regain his All-ACC form of two years ago. By most accounts, he should be ready to go for the start of preseason camp at close to 100 percent.
f Irving is truly back, he'll provide a huge lift to a unit that finished 2009 99th in the nation in scoring defense, but even then it won't be easy. The Wolfpack have to replace all four starters on the defensive line from a year ago, including longtime studs Willie Young and Alan Michael Cash.
KEYS: Keep an eye on how N.C. State uses its quarterback this year. O'Brien restrained Russell Wilson a season ago, instructing him to remain in the pocket more, as opposed to getting up field when running lanes were available.
Of course, the past few seasons Clemson has struggled against running quarterbacks and assuming the State doesn't suffer as many injuries as it did a year ago, Wilson could be utilized more this capacity in 2010. His mobility, plus the deep ball to the rangy Owen Spencer, should be enough to keep the Pack in the game for the better part of three quarters.
But there are too many questions surrounding the Wolfpack defense to expect it to contain Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper for four quarters as the Clemson ground attack will likely grind out big yardage.
PROJECTED POINT SPREAD: Clemson by 10