NC STATE OFFENSE VS. CLEMSON DEFENSE
Avoid The Mistakes
Clemson is clearly one of the best teams in the nation and enters Carter-Finley Stadium as a decided favorite against NC State.
For the Wolfpack to have any chance at all they need to be near-perfect offensively in order to give themselves any chance to upset the Tigers. Clemson is simply too talented, too fast and too skilled to give them freebies.
The Pack has to also avoid penalties, particularly pre-snap penalties that get them off schedule with down and distance. State cannot be successful if they're consistently facing second or third and long against Clemson's stifling defense. An occasional holding penalty will happen over the course of a game, but the Pack cannot withstand unforced mental errors prior to the snap.
Secondly, and it sounds like a broken record, but the Pack has to protect the football. Clemson's going to get their points and State can't give them additional possessions, short fields, or points off turnovers. The Wolfpack has taken care of the football all season, with just four turnovers in seven games. That trend has to continue, and it would really help if they win the turnover battle.
Finally, execute. Don't drop passes and/or have poor plays that can stall drives. The Clemson defensive backs will be the best State has faced all year so the window for completing passes will be tighter. When the opportunity is there, the Wolfpack receivers have to make the catch.
If NC State can avoid mistakes offensively they will have a chance to compete with the Tigers.
Running Right At ‘Em
We feel one of the key indicators for NC State and their chances of winning revolves around the ability to run the football. State can't get into a situation where they have to ask QB Jacoby Brissett to consistently make plays on third-and-long. To accomplish that, the Pack has to be able to run the ball.
Clemson's defense is one of the nation's best, ranking in the Top 15 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, and passing defense. They are fast, physical, and extremely aggressive. The Tigers know the Pack will try to use the short passing game to spread the field and get their play makers out in space.
Because of Clemson's quickness at linebacker and safety, State may be better served to run right at the Tigers with junior Matt Dayes. His two best runs, both touchdowns, against Wake Forest came from simple runs between the tackles where he was able to get into the secondary and make defenders miss.
Clemson will load the box and try to take away the run, but that's going to give some opportunities for explosive running games if Dayes can get past the first level.
The Wolfpack has to get an interior push, especially from the center and guard positions. If the Pack's offensive line can open any creases at all then Dayes and Jaylen Samuels will have chances to make big plays. We believe for State to have a shot they have to show that they can consistently run the football which allows them to control the clock and keep Clemson's high-powered offense on the sidelines.
Dave Doeren was looking for more explosive plays from his offense and he got that last week at Wake Forest.
Four scoring plays of 50+ yards... that will do the trick. NC State must be able to create big plays against Clemson or they won't have any shot to win the game. Frankly, Clemson is probably too strong defensively (and too good offensively) for NC State to win by simply grinding out drives. The Wolfpack must hit some easy scoring plays to put points on the board.
What does that mean? Well, Jacoby Brissett has to stay aggressive. Clemson's going to play press man coverage on the perimeter. The Wolfpack must take shots down the field to wideouts Maurice Trowell, Nyheim Hines, and Jumichael Ramos among others. There are opportunities there, but if you can't hit a big pass play if you don't attempt a big pass play.
It looks like NC State realized this given their offensive approach against Wake Forest. That has to contniue on Saturday.