In a world where there are tigers and wolves, sometimes the two come together to do battle in nature...
OR IN A MOST AMAZING GIF!
Okay, so Clemson is coming to Raleigh for a Thursday night primetime showcase of ACC football! (So let’s not mess this up, okay guys?) For some, not messing this up means N.C. State getting demolished. At least from a league perspective. While there’s some truth to that, there’s no reason N.C. State fans should feel that way. And they won’t. The crowd at Carter-Finley will be in full, um, throat, and Clemson could get a test here. Could.
Would facing an N.C. State team with Brandon Mitchell at quarterback have been more like a final chemistry exam than a take-home psychology test? Probably. Either way, it is what it is, as coaches like to say. And anything can happen when the sun sets over Carter-Finley Stadium. Right, Florida State?
What, too soon?
NO. 3 CLEMSON (2-0, 0-0 ACC) @ N.C. STATE (2-0, 0-0)
Time: 7:30 p.m.
KEY FOR CLEMSON
Don’t turn it over. Sounds easy, right? Well, it seems like it has been for Clemson this year. The Tigers have just one turnover in two games (a fumble in the third quarter against South Carolina State), and their opponents have turned it over five times. That’s pretty good. N.C. State, on the other hand, has recovered six fumbles (tied for the lead in FBS), but doesn’t have an interception yet. Some of that is fumble luck, as statisticians have proven over the years, but the defense does seem to have a nose for the football in a pile-up. All it takes is a botched snap for Clemson to be giving the ball to N.C. State with 20 yards to go, giving away free points. And then the crowd gets into it. Until the third quarter, anyway, when the ENTIRE STADIUM WILL BE OUTSIDE! PASSOUTS! RAWWWWR!
(Sorry. And, kidding.)
KEY FOR N.C. STATE
A fast start. Clemson is going to score points. Eventually. But the N.C. State defense needs to make sure it keeps the Tigers off the field as much as it can and tries to control things early. Then the offense needs to score points. WHERE ELSE DO YOU GET THIS KIND OF ANALYSIS, PEOPLE?!
But seriously, in the last game against Richmond, N.C. State sputtered along offensively before finally putting up a field goal at the 6:21 mark of the first quarter. Richmond punted on its first two drives, but scored a touchdown on its next three drives in a row to go up 21-10 at the half. N.C. State’s slow start gave Richmond reason to think it could stick around, and it did just that.
N.C. State has to get momentum early and try to ride it as long as possible. The Wolfpack has to stay in the game from the opening kickoff, or else the fans won’t be as involved and they’ll start to lose hope, too. A fast start will at least make Clemson question themselves, even if it’s just a little bit.
HERE’S A GUY
Tajh Boyd. It’s hard to remember the last time Tajh Boyd truly had an awful game against a team not named South Carolina. But the 2011 loss at N.C. State might be that game: 21-of-34, 238 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a lost fumble, and ten rushes for -10 yards. He was sacked five times.
In 2012, Clemson beat N.C. State 62-48 (!!!!!!!) and Boyd was 30-of-44 for 426 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, adding 103 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 18 attempts. He wasn’t sacked at all. Boyd was great against Georgia and okay against South Carolina State (he played just one half), but he’s rolling right now. If he hits a bump in the road against an N.C. State defense that’s better than some think, Clemson is in trouble.
Art Norman. He was a backup defensive end last year, but you wouldn’t know it based on the way he’s started 2013. Or by his stat line last year, as he led the team in sacks with 5.5 in spite of coming off the bench. But against Richmond, he might have been the most important player not named Niklas “Kicklas” Sade. (Nickname courtesy of N.C. State SID Annabelle Myers, who is the best.)
He had four tackles, a sack, a quarterback hurry and a forced (and recovered) fumble. But it wasn’t his first big game. His career highs in sacks (3) and tackles (6) still date back to his freshman year in 2011, in that win over Clemson (he also had a forced fumble). N.C. State is going to need defensive guys to make plays, and Norman is certainly someone who can.
STATS ARE FOR LOSERS
N.C. State is 9-9 all-time in Thursday night ESPN games, 7-5 at home and 4-2 against top-25 teams. N.C. State is 2-1 against Clemson on Thursday night, but the last meeting came in 2005 in Raleigh (Clemson won 31-10). ... Speaking of beating ranked teams, N.C. State is 3-0 against the last three top-10 teams it has faced, a stat that dates back to the Chuck Amato Era, when the Wolfpack beat No. 9 Florida State in 2005. But N.C. State has wins over top-10 teams the last two seasons, beating No. 5. Florida State last year and No. 7 Clemson in 2011 (both at home). ... Clemson leads the series 52-28-1 all-time, but nine of the last 16 games have been decided by eight points or less. N.C. State’s 2011 win was its first (and only) in the series since 2003.
Clemson Win: THE ACC IS BACK, BABY! NO CLEMSONING HERE! This is the Tigers’ toughest game before Florida State and that is shaping up to be an EPIC ACC SHOWDOWN NOW! Wait, what? We have epic ACC showdowns? YES! #GOACC
Clemson Loss: THE ACC IS DEAD! NO ONE WILL EVER TALK ABOUT A TEAM FROM THIS LEAGUE AGAIN PAST THE FIRST FEW WEEKS OF THE SEASON! NOTHING ABOUT COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS CYCLICAL! NOTHING!!!!!
N.C. State Win: I think this about sums it up.
N.C. State Loss: I mean...yeah. If they’re competitive, it’ll be “Dave Doeren is really building something!” and if they’re not, it’ll be, “Clemson is who we thought they were!” It’s not like losing this game will tell us anything about the Wolfpack.
Clemson, 44-16. I think the game will probably both start and end like this GIF.
Week 3: 7-1 (1-0 ACC)
Overall: 27-4 (2-1 ACC)