Swinney says up-and-down Wolfpack dangerous, capable on both sides of ball

'That was the difference last year - their secondary outplayed us. We'll have our hands full again with those guys'

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and players wait at the top of the hill, ready to rub Howard's Rock and run down the hill, a tradition since late coach Frank Howard did so with players starting in 1967. Fans and television audience see what is termed 'The most exciting 25 seconds in college football.'

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and players wait at the top of the hill, ready to rub Howard's Rock and run down the hill, a tradition since late coach Frank Howard did so with players starting in 1967. Fans and television audience see what is termed "The most exciting 25 seconds in college football."

When the Tigers step on the field Saturday against N.C. State, they'll have no idea what they're getting into.

Two weeks ago, the Wolfpack looked lifeless in a 33-6 smack-down defeat against win-starved Virginia.

Then last Saturday, State's defense dominated from start-to-finish in the Pack's 37-6 thrashing of Wake Forest.

This is a team that beat Florida State, lost to Tennessee, and eked out victories by the tiniest of margins over UConn and Maryland.

Dabo Swinney knows one thing, though: despite N.C. State's Jekyll-and-Hyde inconsistency, his ninth-ranked Tigers had better be ready on Saturday.

"This is a very talented, very dangerous football team," said Swinney during his Tuesday news conference. "They're capable of playing with anybody in the country. Especially in terms of talent, their guys match up very well."

A year ago, in the Tigers' upset loss at Raleigh, Swinney said State's secondary got the better of Clemson's wide receivers.

"That was the difference last year - their secondary outplayed us," he said. "We'll have our hands full again with those guys. This is a defense that leads the ACC in sacks and ranks second in tackles for loss and scoring defense."

To attack the Wolfpack secondary, Swinney said the Tigers will once again need to be sound in pass protection.

"Everything starts with protecting our quarterback," he said. "We did a good job last week, and we want to continue by getting consistent as a group.

"N.C. State gives a lot of movement and brings a lot of pressure. They're slanting all the time, bringing five and six and mixing up their coverages."

Swinney said the Tiger defense will be tested by quarterback Mike Glennon and a deep group of capable wide receivers.

"They want to put the ball in their quarterback's hands, and I don't blame them," Swinney said. "It's sort of like what he (Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien) did with Matt Ryan up at Boston College. He's doing the same thing with Glennon.

"They spread the ball around, and like to get five (receivers) out. We'll need to win some of those coverage match-ups. They've probably had 15 or 16 guys touch the ball - they're as good as it gets at spreading the wealth."

Swinney has challenged his Tigers to continue with another week of self-focus.

"Our focus is on Clemson, just like it's been all year," he said. "We need to continue our formula for success and play our best on Saturday.

"There's a lot of opportunity left for these guys. We have a chance to share the Atlantic Division title, and to win the division three out of four years would be a great accomplishment for these guys.

"But none of that matters if we don't take care of business today."

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