No. 3 Clemson at North Carolina State
Thursday, 7:30 PM ESPN
Line: Clemson -13
Clemson and NC State both head into this game with 2-0 records. Clemson is hoping to keep rolling towards a potential berth in the ACC title game, while NC State hopes to continue to build on its early season momentum under new head coach Dave Doren.
Last year when these two teams met in Clemson, it was absolute chaos. NC State took a 24-13 lead at one point before Tahj Boyd and Clemson rattled off 42 straight points on the way to a 62-48 victory in a wild shootout. Clemson might not mind a repeat of that scene, but you know NC State fans do not want to see that occur.
Clemson is the big dog, but only a 13 point favorite. Is an upset on the horizon?
For NC State to win: Score touchdowns. Clemson will move the ball on the Wolfpack, and they have the backs and receivers to make it into the end zone. Besides getting stops, NC State's best defense might be to score touchdowns as well. So far this season, NC State has kicked more field goals (7) than touchdowns (6). Putting up threes when you're opponent is most likely going to be putting up sevens is not going to get it done.
For Clemson to win: Don't turn it over. If Clemson can hold on to the ball, they can win this game. But if they put it on the ground, or if Tahj Boyd throws a couple of picks, it could given NC State confidence. And confidence for an opponent on their home field can lead to disaster quickly. Clemson has handled business so far this year, and Boyd is a veteran, so they should be okay. All it takes is a couple of mental errors on a Thursday night, though, for things to go sideways.
Key Player, NC State: Pete Thomas, quarterback. The former Colorado State quarterback won the starting job, although he might not be the best fit in the spread style preferred by head coach Doeren and offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Thomas, though is who they are going with, and while his completion percentage has been fine so far through two games (67 percent of 39 of 58 passing), but three interceptions versus zero touchdowns will not get it done. If Thomas cannot convert some touchdowns and avoid the interceptions, it will quickly turn into a rout.
Key Player, Clemson: Sammy Watkins, wide receiver. Watkins did very little against South Carolina State, but to be fair, he wasn't needed against the in-state Bulldogs. His performance against Georgia is more indicative of the kind of theat the junior wide receiver is (six catches, 127 yards and one touchdown). Furthermore, the potential of him breaking a kick return, a punt return, or a rush off of a sweep or an end-around makes him a quadruple threat of the highest order.
Key Stat: 17-16. That was the final score of the game the last time that the number three team in the nation came into Carter-Finley Stadium to face the Wolfpack. It was Florida State who came in and lost last season after leading by 13 entering the fourth quarter. In Clemson's last visit two years ago, Clemson lost 37-13.