One of the most important games of the ACC season is set for this week when the no. 5 Clemson Tigers host the no. 10 NC State Wolf Pack in a battle of 4-0 teams. The Wolf Pack won last year’s double-overtime game against Clemson, although NC State hasn’t won in Clemson since 2002. For Saturday’s primetime game, the Tigers are favored by 6.5 points at home with the over/under set at 40 points.
After a down season in 2021, at least by their standards, Clemson is working its way back to the top of the ACC hierarchy. The Tigers opened the season with a win over Georgia Tech and then survived a double-overtime game with Wake Forest to start the ACC season 2-0. In between, Clemson also had comfortable wins over Furman and Louisiana Tech, helping the Tigers get to 4-0 and into the top 5 of the polls.
Of course, the Wolfpack has its eyes on being the best team in the ACC Atlantic this year. Dave Doeren’s team is 4-0 thus far, sweeping its non-conference schedule. NC State opened the year with a close call against East Carolina, although the Wolfpack has been a little more convincing with wins over Texas Tech and UConn the last two weeks.
Leader of the Pack
The NC State offense appears to be in good shape, with Devin Leary giving the Wolfpack an experienced quarterback to lead the way. Through four games, Leary doesn’t have eye-popping numbers, although he’s been solid, completing 64% of his passes with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Before the season, the running game was a question for NC State, but those questions have started to quiet down with the tandem of Demie Sumo-Karngbaye and Jordan Houston combining to average 5.3 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, the NC State defense brings back a lot of experience in 2022, especially at the linebacker position. The early returns have been good, with the Wolfpack allowing no more than 20 points in any of their games. They were particularly impressive in holding Texas Tech to just 14 points while also forcing four turnovers, especially with the RedRaiders scoring over 30 points against two other ranked teams this season.
Eye of the Tigers
After a sluggish performance from the Clemson offense in 2021, things have turned around in a big way in 2022. DJ Uiagalelei already has over 1,000 passing yards, and 10 touchdown passes in four games, as Clemson is once again developing a crop of elite receivers. Uiagalelei is also a contributor in the running game alongside Will Shipley, who is averaging 6.8 yards per carry and has seven rushing touchdowns already this year.
However, there are a few questions regarding the Clemson defense after conceding 45 points in last week’s double-overtime win over Wake Forest. There’s no shame in giving up a lot of yards and points to a team like Wake Forest and a veteran quarterback like Sam Hartman. But while the Tigers held Wake to less than three yards per carry on the ground, the Clemson secondary looked vulnerable with Hartman throwing six touchdown passes.
Guess Who’s Back
After surviving a road test last week, Clemson should be able to take another step forward this week at home. While NC State is solid all around, Leary and the offense haven’t looked explosive enough to match the Tigers score for score. This game will be competitive, but look for the Tigers to win by at least a touchdown and cover the spread.
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