Why You Should Give A Hoot: Can Clemson maintain the level of play it showcased to a nation on opening night? A trip to Raleigh is going to answer some questions about the Tigers' potential in 2013.
When Clemson defeated Georgia two weeks ago, it instantly vaulted into the national championship race. Tajh Boyd, Dabo Swinney and back-to-back wins over quality SEC opponents will get provide a program with the boost it needs to contend for more than just ACC crowns. But the Tigers have had a nagging penchant for losing a game they were not supposed to in recent years, putting a hard cap on their upward mobility. Clemson gets a national TV audience to show that this team isn't like any of the recent ones.
NC State has begun the Dave Doeren era with back-to-back wins over Louisiana Tech and Richmond. The opener was impressive. Act II? Not so much. The Pack struggled with the Spiders, needing a Niklas Sade 48-yard field goal with 33 seconds left to escape the clutch of an FCS team. A Thursday night visit from one of the nation's top teams affords Doeren and his staff an opportunity to kick Doeren's blueprint for success into overdrive.
Why Clemson Might Win: The offense is terrific, and even better when coordinator Chad Morris has an extra week in the film room.
Boyd plans to tee off on a Wolfpack secondary still adjusting to insertion of three new starting defensive backs in the lineup. The Tigers are busting at the seams with size and speed on the outside, with none more dynamic than big-play Sammy Watkins. As an added bonus, veteran Roderick McDowell has shown early signs of becoming the feature back that the attack needs. In the defeat of the Dawgs, he rushed for 132 yards on just 22 carries. When Clemson needs a score, it's going to get a score.
Why NC State Might Win: Its new up-tempo offense still kind of erratic, the Pack will need to take its marching order from an unheralded D-line.
NC State quietly sports one of the ACC's deeper defensive lines, a unit bolstered by the presence of ends Art Norman and Darryl Cato-Bishop and tackles T.Y. McGill and Thomas Teal. The quartet is active enough to mess with the integrity of the pocket, forcing Boyd to operate outside of his comfort zone. The D as a whole has five sacks and six forced fumbles, playing with the reckless abandon needed to maintain the energy level inside the home building.
Who To Watch Out For: Will anyone on the State offense unnerve an improving Clemson D? The backs are relatively pedestrian, and QB Pete Thomas, who replaced injured Brandon Mitchell in the opener, has yet to throw a touchdown pass on 58 attempts.
- The Tigers boast a pretty good D-line as well, which ought to concern a mediocre Pack front. A year older and a year better, Corey Crawford, Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley are going to be a nuisance for the heavy-legged Thomas.
- The Pack has a nice collection of receivers that includes Bryan Underwood and Quintin Payton. However, it has to start using them better, beginning with this Thursday night's game.
What Will Happen: Thursday night. On the road. Against a conference rival. Yeah, this could be a tricky spot for Clemson. However, this appears to be a different Tiger team, one that's capable of navigating the landmines and the bear traps on the schedule. Boyd will ensure that Clemson remains perfect on the season, accounting for three scores to help dial down the crowd at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Prediction: Clemson 40 … NC State 21
Line: Clemson -13.5 o/u: 66
Must See Rating: (5 The Presidents' Gatekeepers – 1 Million Second Quiz) … 3.5