Scouting N.C. State: How The Tigers Win...
1. Attack the secondary: Tajh Boyd had a field day with N.C. State's secondary last season, and the Wolfpack's back line is younger and more inexperienced than last year. Clemson has yet to get its downfield passing game working this season, and that needs to change against a defense that will try to take away the run. Playing on hostile ground against a high-energy Thursday night crowd, the Tigers need to involve their top playmakers from the get-go.
2. Run the football. Clemson may have gashed N.C. State's defense for more than 300 yards rushing a year ago, but the Wolfpack defense has leaned heavily on its front seven in the opening two games of the season. State leads the ACC in rushing defense (87.0 per game), after allowing Richmond just 16 yards last week. If Clemson is to successfully attack the Wolfpack secondary, it needs run the ball effectively and negate State's defensive strength.
3. No-touch touchbacks: If Bradley Pinion can keep doing what he did in the first two games, the Tigers will continue denying their opponents an important offensive weapon. A year ago, State's Tobias Palmer shredded Clemson kickoff team for 277 yards on eight returns - a 34.5 average. The Wolfpack once again has a capable return man in Rashard Smith, who ranks second in the conference in kickoff returns, sixth in punt returns, and sixth in all-purpose yardage. Pinion is 12-of-13 this season on touchback. More of the same will serve the Tigers well this week.
4. Harass the quarterback: State's 'new' quarterback isn't new to the game at all - Pete Thomas started 21 games at Colorado State before transferring to Raleigh. He has a stable of capable receivers, and though State is still finding its way in coach Dave Doeren's offense, Thomas is experienced and poised enough to pick apart a secondary if he's given time to operate. The Tigers come into the game ranked 10th nationally in quarterback sacks. If Clemson can get consistent pressure with a four-man rush, the Tigers will be well-positioned to get their ACC season off on the right foot.