2013 Forecast: Tigers face first road test on a Thursday at N.C. State

N.C. State's Darryl Cato-Bishop sacks Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd in the third quarter. The Wolfpack defense combined for six sacks and four turnovers in the game two years ago in Raliegh.

N.C. State's Darryl Cato-Bishop sacks Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd in the third quarter. The Wolfpack defense combined for six sacks and four turnovers in the game two years ago in Raliegh.

Breaking down the Wolfpack…

N.C. State Quick Profile

Plays Clemson: at Carter-Finley Stadium, Sept. 19 (Thursday), at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN).

2012 Record: 7-6 (4-4 ACC, third in Atlantic).

Coach: Dave Doeren (23-4 career record, 0-0 against ACC [0-0 vs. Clemson], 1st year at N.C. State).

Offense (2012 ranks): Spread (Total offense: 48th/Rush offense: 108th/Pass offense: 18th)

Defense (2012 ranks): 4-3 (Total defense: 68th/Rush defense: 52nd/Pass defense: 83rd).

2012 Special Team Ranks: Net punting – 90th/Kickoff returns – 31st/Punt returns – 51st/Punt return yardage defense – 69th/Kick return yardage defense – 36th.

2012 Misc. stats: Turnover margin – 99th/Fewest penalties – 88th/First downs – 46th/First downs allowed – 35th/Third down efficiency – 53rd/Red zone efficiency – 51st/Red zone defense – 51st/Time of possession – 47th.

Depth Chart Breakdown – Returning starters (ACC pos. ranking)

QB – 0 (12): 1. Brandon Mitchell (6-4 239, senior, Arkansas transfer; 25 cmp%/45 yards/1 TD-0 INT) 2. Pete Thomas (6-5 234, junior, Colorado State transfer) 3. Manny Stocker (6-1 212, soph.).

RB – 1 (7): 1. Shadrach Thornton (6-1 203, soph.; 154 carries-694 yards-3 TDs-4.5 YPC-274 rec. yards) 2. Tony Creecy (5-11 210, junior; 127-476-5 TDs-182 rec. yards).

WR – 2/3 (9): 1. Bryan Underwood (5-9 177, junior; 44 catches-620 yards-10 TDs-14.1 YPR); 1. Rashard Smith (5-9 175, senior; 19-315-5-16.6); 1. Quintin Payton (6-4 211, senior; 51-798-2-15.6).

TE – 0 (7): Asa Watson (6-4 237, senior; 24-282-1-11.8 YPR).

OL – 2/5 (13): LT Rob Crisp (6-7 298, senior, 11 career starts); LG Duran Christophe (6-5 300, senior, 18 career starts); C Joe Thuney (Sophomore); RG Alex Barr (6-7 326, sophomore); RT Tyson Chandler (6-7 360, junior, 12 career starts).

DL – 3/4 (4): DE Darry Cato-Bishop (6-3 266, senior; 36 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 10.5 TFL); DT Thomas Teal (6-1 312, junior; 35 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL); DT T.Y. McGill (6-1 293, junior; 39 tackles, 5 sacks, 10.5 TFL); DE Art Norman (6-0 243, junior; 33 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 9 TFL).

LB – 1/3 (12): SLB D.J. Green (6-4 228, junior)/Rodman Noel (6-4 215, junior; 42 tackles, 1 sack, 6 TFL); MLB M.J. Salahuddin (6-2 220, soph.); WLB Brandon Pittman (6-2 222, junior; 34 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL).

DB – 1/4 (13): CB Juston Burris (6-1 203, soph.; 44 tackles, 1 sacks, 3 TFL, 6 PBUs, 3 INTs); SS Hakim Jones (6-2 198, soph.; 10 tackles, INT); FS Jarvis Byrd (5-10 183, senior; CB Dontae Johnson (6-2 195, senior; 70 tackles, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 8 PBUs).

K – 1/1 (8): K Niklas Sade (13-23, 5-12 from 40+, long of 50).

P – 1/1 (8): P Wil Baumann (38.9 YPP, 16 inside the 20).

Average ACC position rating: 9.4 (T-11).

N.C. State Identity

1. N.C. State…running the ball? – No team in the ACC has thrown the ball more than N.C. State the last four years. In that same span, you would be hard-pressed to find a team that’s run the ball better than Northern Illinois and that’s what new Wolfpack Dave Doeren is bringing to town. His new offensive coordinator Matt Canada coached Wisconsin to a 13th-ranked rushing attack last season after leading NIU to an eighth-best mark the year before. The Wolfpack have pieces to be successful right away here to in in the one-two punch of sophomore Shadrach Thornton and junior Tony Creecy and Arkansas dual-threat QB transfer Brandon Mitchell.

2. Back-seven rebuild – The Wolfpack return really only one starter among the linebackers and secondary and get junior D.J. Green back from a season-long suspension, who started seven games in 2011. In those losses, five of N.C. State’s top tacklers, top-three in passes defended and leader in tackles for loss are gone.

3. Muckraking d-line – N.C. State was fourth in the ACC in sacks and second in tackles for loss last season and they bring back an entire frontline with starting experience. Senior end Darryl Cato-Bishop leads the group with 15 solo tackles for loss (11 sacks) the last two years.

Odds & Trends: Clemson came out on top of an epic offensive showdown, 62-48, last year in Death Valley that shattered all kinds of Memorial Stadium offensive records. The home team has won three-straight in the series after Clemson had previously won seven in a row since the Tigers’ last Thursday night tango in Raliegh (a 17-15 loss in 2003). Clemson hasn’t lost two in a row at Carter-Finley since 1986/88. Dabo Swinney is 10-12 overall on the road as a head coach, but the Tigers won all three road contests last season as a favorite.

2013 Schedule: 8/31 La Tech; 9/7 Richmond; 9/14 Bye; 9/19 Clemson; 9/28 Central Michigan; Oct. 5 @Wake Forest; Oct. 12 Syracuse; Oct. 19 Bye; Oct. 26 @Florida State; Nov. 2 UNC; Nov. 9 @Duke; Nov. 16 @BC; Nov. 23 ECU; Nov. 30 Maryland.

2012 Results: Tennessee (Georgia Dome) – L 35-21; @UConn – W 10-7; So. Alabama – W 31-7; The Citadel – W 52-14; @Miami – L 44-37; FSU – W 17-16; @Maryland – W 20-18; @UNC – L 43-35; Virginia – L 33-6; Wake Forest – W 37-6; @Clemson – L 62-48; Boston College – W 27-10; Vanderbilt – L 38-24.

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