Taking a deeper look at the Wolfpack and what to expect Thursday night…
The sample size is small – and at best – a little sketchy when it comes to breaking down N.C. State’s schedule to this point: Louisiana Tech (1-2) and Richmond (1-2).
Tiger 'D' has to play smart
Nevertheless N.C. State is 2-0 on the strength of a new-look offense and strong run ‘D.’
If you haven’t seen an Wolfpack game since the end of the Tom O’Brien era, you’re in for a bit of a shock. The pass-happy previous administration, which produced over half of last year’s 919 combined passing yards between the two in Death Valley, is out – and the hurry-up, ground-and-pound attack is in place under new coach Dave Doeren.
In the ACC, N.C. State is second only to the Tigers in plays per game (81.5) with some balance in the fourth-best rushing (212 yards per) and sixth-best passing (280.5 yards per) attacks. They’re totaling both more total yards (493 to 489.5) and yards per play (6 to 5.7) than the Tigers’ offense.
Under defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable, they run a 4-3 scheme and have held opponent’s running games to just 79.5 yards a game, which is good enough for No. 8 in the nation.
Countering Cat-man is junior Wolfpack kicker Niklas Sade, who’s hit 7-of-7 field goal attempts this season and is 3-of-3 from 40 yards or more out.
They had to rally from down two possessions at home to beat FCS-level Richmond, who in turn lost to Gardner-Webb last weekend. Gardner. Dash. Webb.
Part of the problem comes in the secondary, where they lost some vets and are giving up an ACC-worst 239 yards per game.
On the offensive end, the jury’s out on whether they have the QB to run the spread system. Last year at Northern Illinois, Doeren had the nation’s top running quarterback (Jordan Lynch, 130 yards per game), but after a first-game injury to dual-threat Brandon Mitchell, they are cobbling together situational QB-play between a pro-style protégé (Pete Thomas) and a converted fullback (freshman Bryant Shirreffs).
While posting the ACC's most rush attempts per game, N.C. State falls in the middle of the pack in efficiency (4.4 yards per carry).
Thomas says '11 State game is motivation
Revenge factor? A bit overrated. The Thursday night in a rowdy road atmosphere? Overrated as well. Trap game? Yeah, no.
N.C. State is a team in transition that will get a little boost from the red-clad crowd, but they are short on firepower offensively and the back-seven is full of question marks.
Clemson is a grizzled team – and under Dabo Swinney – has brought it both on the road and against unranked opponents. Since the 37-13 loss to State in ’11, the Tigers have gone 7-2 against the spread outside of Death Valley and 8-0 versus unranked opponents overall. That will be 8-2 and 9-0 respectively by late Thursday night.
Three Predictions & a Pick
1. The Tigers are plus-one or better in turnover margin.
2. Tajh Boyd tops 300 passing yards for the first time this season (and the 12th time in his career).
3. N.C. State is held under 400 total yards (no small feat in a tempo showdown – they had 597 last year against Clemson).
Final Score: Clemson 38-17
(2-0 overall & ATS on picks this season)