Clemson vs. NC State: Prediction and preview
Clemson and NC State will kickoff in primetime on Saturday night in Death Valley.
This will be a top 10 matchup between 2 of the favorites to win the Atlantic division title this season. Both teams enter this game with a 4-0 record on the season.
NC State defeated Clemson last season, but the Tigers won the previous 8 meetings in this series. Now, Clemson will look for revenge as it hopes to re-claim the ACC title in 2022.
Clemson vs. NC State preview
NC State’s offense has sputtered a bit to start the season, but the Wolfpack are starting to find answers on that side of the ball.
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Running back Demie Sumo looks like one of the top rushers in the conference. After entering the year as NC State’s backup, he now leads the team with 252 yards and 3 touchdowns in 4 games. He’s also averaging 6.5 yards per carry.
But if NC State is going to beat Clemson, it will need quarterback Devin Leary to continue to show improvement. Leary is coming off his best game of the season, which included 4 touchdown passes in a win over UConn. He’s been disappointing to start the season after being named preseason ACC Player of the Year. His passer efficiency rating of 144.37 ranks just 8th in the conference despite only facing 1 Power 5 opponent so far.
The opportunity to face a battered Clemson secondary could be a game-changer for Leary. Last week, the Tigers gave up 6 touchdown passes to Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman. He also threw for 337 yards — a total that would have been much higher if not for Clemson’s repeated pass interference penalties.
It was one of the worst defensive performances at Clemson during the Dabo Swinney era. The Tigers were always likely to take a step back in the secondary this season due to the losses of Mario Goodrich and Andrew Booth — but they appear to have significant problems.
However, missing from the narrative about Clemson’s defense has been the reality of its injury situation. Two starters — safety Andrew Mukuba and cornerback Sheridan Jones — did not play vs. the Demon Deacons due to injury. Another player, cornerback Malcolm Greene, was also out. It’s unclear if any or all of those players will be available vs. NC State, but they would surely make an impact if so.
On the other side of the ball, Clemson’s offense will be going up against a stout NC State defense. The Wolfpack are giving up just 4.25 yards per play so far this season, which ranks second in the ACC.
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Clemson’s offense has looked improved in recent weeks. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei threw 5 touchdown passes in Clemson’s overtime win over Wake Forest, and running back Will Shipley leads the conference with 7 rushing touchdowns to start the year.
Clemson vs. NC State prediction
With Hurricane Ian expected to make its way into South Carolina this weekend, the weather could have a tremendous impact on this game. If that’s the case, the advantage goes to Clemson. If the Tigers’ secondary is still banged up, NC State’s vertical passing game — theoretically its biggest advantage in this game — could be wiped away.
Clemson seems to have the more versatile approach. It could win this game in a variety of ways thanks to its defensive upside and the growth it has show offensively. The home crowd will help as well.
Prediction: Clemson 28, NC State 24