NC State (6-4) at Clemson (9-1) Nov. 17, 3:30, ABC or ESPN2
Here’s The Deal: Six in a row. Two more to go.
Clemson watched in vain as Florida State rallied to beat Virginia Tech in the final minute to remain atop the Atlantic Division. The Tigers’ hopes of repeating as ACC champs are disappearing like the sand in an hour glass, but the goal of a one-loss, BCS bowl-capped campaign remains very much alive. The team just continues to take care of business in workmanlike fashion, burying four straight opponents by at least three touchdowns to move up two pegs to No. 11 in the BCS standings.
Ever-flaky NC State continues to be near impossible to read on a week-in, week-out basis. Over the last month, for example, the same team that handed the Seminoles their only loss of 2012 also got obliterated by Virginia, 33-6, two weeks ago. And what does the Pack do as an encore? Play a near-perfect game against Wake Forest, becoming bowl eligible with last Saturday’s 37-6 victory in Raleigh.
Why NC State Might Win: Hey, if the Wolfpack brings its ‘A’ game, absolutely anything is possible.
Again, you never know what you’re going to get from Tom O’Brien’s kids, but this is the program that held the ‘Noles four touchdowns below their current scoring average, and is fresh off one of its best offensive efforts of 2012. A team can deliver big upsets with QB Mike Glennon, who has a couple of capable receivers in Bryan Underwood and Quintin Payton. And the State defense leads the ACC in sacks, playing with the high level of energy that often leads to momentum-changing turnovers and stops for loss.
Why Clemson Might Win: When NC State has peaked this fall, it’s never been outside Raleigh. And it isn’t going to happen in Death Valley.
Clemson is on the kind of tear that isn’t likely to be ended by a skittish Wolfpack squad. Chad Morris’ offense is on auto-pilot, reaching at least 37 points in each of the last nine games. QB Tajh Boyd is No. 2 in the country in passing efficiency, tossing 13 touchdown passes in the last three wins alone. He’s surrounded by some of the most electrifying skill position players in America, such as RB Andre Ellington and receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. Watkins and Hopkins are bucking to get a crack at a David Amerson-led defensive backfield that’s allowed a few too many pass-catchers get behind it this season.
What To Watch Out For: Who’s taking the bait on the Clemson D?
The Tigers began the season with question marks on the defensive side of the ball and a new coordinator, Brent Venables. While the recent numbers have been solid, just 15 points a game over the last four, this unit has had a penchant for being a tease in recent seasons. And when it’s least expected, the wheels come off. Glennon can initiate just such a game, but only if properly protected. He’s been treated like a red-clad piñata lately, and could be in for a long afternoon if shifty sophomore tackles Grady Jarrett and Josh Watson are allowed to bust up the gut.
What Will Happen: As long as Clemson keeps its eye on the ball, it ought to be fine at home this weekend.
A visit from South Carolina is up next for the Tigers, which has a way of distracting a team’s attention. It’ll be up to Dabo Swinney and his coaches to keep the players focused on the task at hand, locking down a 10-win season. Boyd will keep Clemson on the rails, easily outdueling Glennon in a shootout that’ll feature the quarterbacks. The Pack can keep up for only so long, but like an Oregon opponent, it’ll get left in the dust at some point shortly after halftime.
CFN Prediction: Clemson 40 … NC State 21
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Clemson -17 O/U: 64
Must Watch Rating (5 – Killing Them Softly, 1 – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2): 2.5