Business as Usual for Tigers

With the Atlantic Division wrapped up and arch rival South Carolina looming the following week, it's still business as usual for the Clemson football program this week.

Clemson's game at N.C. State on Nov. 19 is essentially meaningless as the Tigers already have wrapped up a berth in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game. But don't try telling that to Clemson's players.

"We have a totally different mindset," junior center Dalton Freeman said. "We're only guaranteed 12 games a year, and we work 365 days for them. We're sitting here now with a chance to win every division game."

With a win over the Wolfpack, Clemson would become the first Atlantic Division team to beat every other division team in a season since the league went to divisional play in 2005.

"We're the best in the division, but there's more out there -- let's go from good to great," head coach Dabo Swinney said.

A victory also would give Clemson 10 wins, something that hasn't been done since 1990. The Tigers haven't won 10 games in the regular season since 1981, when they went 12-0 and won the national championship.

A win also would give the Tigers seven ACC victories this season -- something the Tigers haven't had since 1983.

"It's all about being the best we can be," Swinney said. "We've still got all kind of improving to do. Nobody can watch our tape and say we've arrived."

-- Clemson leads the ACC in total offense (478 yards), scoring offense (37.3 ppg.) and passing offense (307.6 ypg). All three figures would rank the Tigers in the top 15 in the nation and would be school records if the season ended today.

-- Clemson is ranked seventh in the latest AP poll and eighth in the latest USA Today poll. This is the ninth consecutive week that Clemson has been ranked in the top 25 -- the longest such streak for the program since the 2000-101 season.

-- Beginning with the Tigers' game at N.C. State on Nov. 19, their last four games will on the road. Clemson plays at South Carolina on Nov. 26, followed by the ACC Championship game in Charlotte on Dec. 3, then a bowl game.

SERIES HISTORY: Clemson leads the series with N.C. State 51-27-1 (last meeting, 2010, Clemson 14-13 at Clemson).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Clemson put up 522 yards of offense in last week's win over Wake Forest, but coaches and players alike came away disappointed.

"We left so much out there that it makes me sick," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said.

The Tigers were inefficient on third down and turned the ball over three times, yet still escaped with a victory. The return of Andre Ellington to the lineup helped recharge the running game, as Ellington --who had missed the Georgia Tech game with a sprained ankle -- provided 98 yards and two touchdowns. The primary concern as the Tigers prepare to face N.C. State is the health of freshman receiver Sammy Watkins, who sustained an AC sprain in his shoulder against Wake Forest.

He's questionable for the game at Raleigh, N.C. The good news is that other receivers compensated for Watkins' absence late in the game, with Dwayne Allen making all four of his catches in the fourth quarter and Adam Humphries making key catches as well. Clemson also will be without tackle Phillip Price for at least one game, forcing senior David Smith back into a starter's role and left guard Brandon Thomas to tackle. Price is expected to miss just one or two games. Although he passed for 343 yards, quarterback Tajh Boyd threw two interceptions for a second straight game, prompting Morris to conclude that the sophomore may be too confident. "With all the throws he's made this season, he thinks he can throw it into a Dixie cup," Morris said.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Clemson's defense continues to bend but not break while somehow managing to atone for earlier errors. The trend held true to form last week against Wake Forest as the Tigers defense surrendered 21 third-quarter points, then completely shut the Deacons down in the fourth quarter. And when Clemson had to have the ball back for a chance to win the game in the final minute of play, the defense forced a quick three-and-out, with senior linemen Rennie Moore and Brandon Thompson combining for a sack on third down to seal the deal. Clemson kicked the game-winning field goal on the game's final play.

"We've been in that situation before," LB Corico Hawkins said. "We're able to do what we have to do when we need to do it."

Senior CB Coty Sensabaugh has come on strong of late, and Wake Forest's Chris Givens managed just two catches while working primarily against Sensabaugh.

"He's turned himself into a player who will get some looks from some NFL teams," coach Dabo Swinney said.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're doing better on third-and-long. I'm thinking about the next time we're in a third-and-one or third-and-two to take a delay penalty so we can have a third-and-six or third-and-seven." -- Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris on his unit's short-yardage woes.

Clemson at N.C. State, Nov. 19 -- Clemson already has clinched its spot in the ACC Championship game, but still would like nothing more than to finish the regular season with impressive performances, beginning with N.C. State. Clemson edged the Wolfpack 14-13 last season and leads the all-time series by a commanding 51-27-1 margin, but has a history of struggling against the underdog Wolfpack. N.C. State certainly will be an underdog this season, even playing at home, but the Tigers have been rather unimpressive themselves in losing to Georgia Tech and nipping Wake Forest in their last two games.

"We know we haven't been playing well, and that irks us," tight end Dwayne Allen said.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Clemson must establish the run with Andre Ellington, and that could prove challenging against an N.C. State defense that is capable of mustering big efforts in that regard. The Wolfpack held North Carolina to three yards rushing on Nov. 5 and is at full strength defensively with the return of lineman J.R. Sweezy. Clemson has a potent passing attack that is on track for the most prolific production in school history, but will have to match up against a Wolfpack secondary that leads the nation in interceptions with 20 and also boasts the national leader in thefts in David Amerson, who has 10 interceptions.

Clemson QB Tajh Boyd will have to be a bit more patient and make sure he goes through his progressions before releasing the ball. On defense, Clemson must keep the pressure on N.C. State QB Mike Glennon, who has struggled of late.

WR Adam Humphries -- Humphries will replace starter Sammy Watkins if Watkins is unable to play following his AC sprain sustained on Nov. 12. Humprhies, who like Watkins is only a freshman, has shown flashes of his talent and speed. He had three clutch catches for 34 yards after replacing Watkins against Wake Forest.

TE Brandon Ford -- Another guy who may be deserving of more playing time is Ford, who backs up starter Dwayne Allen. Ford has drawn the praise of coaches since moving from wide receiver and is emerging as a reliable target. He had three catches for 51 yards in the Tigers' last game, including a nifty seven-yard touchdown grab.

OG David Smith -- Smith will return to the starting lineup at guard against N.C. State. Starting T Phillip Price is sidelined with an MCL strain, requiring guard Brandon Thomas to move over and Smith to replace Thomas. Smith has starting experience, but coaches have questioned his "fire." He'll need to come up with a strong performance against the Wolfpack to regain the coaches' confidence.

-- WR Sammy Watkins is questionable for the Nov. 19 game at N.C. State after sustaining a shoulder sprain on Nov. 12.

-- OT Phillip Price sustained an MCL strain on Nov. 12 and will miss the N.C. State game.

-- LB Tony Steward sustained a torn ACL in practice on Oct. 18 and is out for the season.

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