Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#397 Clemson vs.
#398 NC State
Saturday, September 25, 2021 at 3:30pm EDT
Written by Eric P.

The NC State Wolfpack play host to the Clemson Tigers in a crucial ACC matchup between the two teams on Saturday afternoon from Carter0Finley Stadium. In the preseason ACC poll, it was no surprise to see Clemson the overwhelming favorite to win both the conference as a whole and the Atlantic Division. NC State though was the overwhelming favorite to finish second in the Atlantic Division and some had them as a potential upset candidate to win the conference as a whole. An opening week loss to Georgia was a surprise for Clemson and how quiet their offense has been having taken the country by surprise. For NC State, a road loss to Mississippi State tempered expectations pretty quickly for this team but now that they're back at home, this could be their best chance for years to come to take down Clemson. In the all-time series between the two teams, Clemson has won 59 times compared to NC State's 28 wins, and the Tigers have won eight in a row overall. In 2019, Clemson win 55-10 in the largest win in the series history and the NC State will certainly be looking to make sure that Saturday is a different result.

Clemson Searching For Elite Punch

The Tigers have been the class of the ACC for nearly a decade now and even though it hasn't been pretty so far this season, they still shouldn't have any issues winning the ACC. They've dominated NC State of late and going on the road shouldn't change their outlook or chances of coming away with a win. The opener against Georgia was a surprise, as was last week's ACC opener against Georgia Tech. The lack of offense is difficult to justify, especially given how heralded some of the recruits on the offensive side were and how some of the starters have been in the past. Defensively, Clemson has more than hold their own and will continue to keep Clemson comfortably in every game. From an injury perspective, two key players are questionable for Saturday. Linebacker Jake Venables (hamstring) and offensive lineman Mason Trotter (hand) have struggled to get on the field and it's uncertain of Saturday will see them get in on the action. Clemson's offense will need to show vast improvement and Saturday is a great opportunity for that to be the case, especially with Dabo Swinney at the helm.

For an offense that hasn't had any issues lighting up the scoreboard over the last few years, it's wild to see them rank only 105th in FBS in points per game. They rank 114th in total yards per game and 111th in yards per play. DJ Uiagalelei shined in his start last year against Notre Dame but has struggled through the first three games this season. He's only tossed for 475 yards for one touchdown and two interceptions and has only rushed for 47 yards total. Will Shipley has slowly taken control of the offense as the lead running back, rushing for four touchdowns on the season and averaging 5.3 yards per rush. The rushing attack will come into its own, especially with the true freshman getting more accustomed to it, but the passing game needs work. Joseph Ngata and Justyn Ross have been a two-headed monster at wide receiver, combining for 25 catches and over 300 yards but only has one touchdown to show for themselves. Expect an emphasis on getting those two more involved in the red zone offense and for Clemson to show vast improvement from how the season has gone so far.

As bad as the offense has been, the defense might be Swinney's best ever. They rank second in the country in points allowed per game and are still yet to allow a first-quarter point. James Skalski continues to be the leader on the defense, leading the team with 26 total tackles. The pass rush continues to be a key advantage, with the Tigers combining for six sacks on the season already and they'll look to take a play out of Mississippi State's book and put heaving pressure on NC State. After slowing down Georgia in week one and keep Georgia Tech's potentially potent offense at bay last week, there's no reason to think that NC State will suddenly flip the script and find a way to put up big numbers on Saturday. If Clemson can score a defensive touchdown though, that'll be a huge advantage given their inability to score on offense and that alone could be enough to come away with the win.

Wolfpack Get Opening ACC Test

NC State turned some heads last season with how well they played after years of inconsistency and knows how big of an opportunity they have on Saturday. Given how Clemson has dominated the division historically, NC State knows that this might be the time to shock the ACC and upset the Tigers. Not only are they at home with a crowd that is sure to be wild, but NC State also has the experience and talent to keep themselves in the game against the Tigers. The Wolfpack dominated USF in their opener, 45-0, and then easily got past Furman last week. A 24-10 loss on the road to Mississippi State is a concern though and they'll need to be far sharper on Saturday if they want to give Clemson a game. Payton Wilson (shoulder) is the only NC State player on the injury list and their health is another one of the few advantages that they'll have over the Tigers.

NC State ranks 50th in points per game at 33.33, and while it isn't elite by any stretch, it still is 11 points more than what Clemson is scoring per game. Devin Leary is the leader at quarterbacks and has been strong so far on the season but does lack the dual-threat nature that can give Clemson trouble at times. He has a 67 percent completion percentage and six touchdowns on the season and as long as he takes care of the ball, could surprise Clemson on Saturday. The rushing attack is far more potent right now, with Zonovan Knight leading the backfield at 99.33 rushing yards per game. Ricky Person averages 55 of his own and the two have combined for five touchdowns on the season. Knight only had 31 yards against Mississippi State though, which could be a sign of things to come in the Clemson game.

For all the talk heading into Saturday about how strong Clemson is defensive, NC State's defense is no slouch themselves. They rank fifth in FBS in points allowed per game and while they haven't seen an offense like Clemson, they won't be intimidated. They also rank 21st in interceptions per game as the turnovers have been a key to their two easy wins on the season. Drake Thomas is the undisputed leader of the defense, leading the way with 25 total tackles and an interception, and three quarterback hits as well, as his name will be heard throughout on Saturday. The pass rush has been an issue for the Wolfpack all season long and even though Clemson has struggled offensively, if they have all day in the backfield, it won't be pretty for NC State when it's all said and done.

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Clemson is due for a bounce-back game in a big way after the struggles to start the season on the offensive side of things. The offense is one of the worst in FBS as of now but Swinney won't let that carry over. The ten-point line seems to be based more on who Clemson has struggled to be this season and not the potential that is still well within their offense. Uiagalelei is much better than his first few weeks have shown and he should be much sharper heading into Saturday's game.

In addition, the running game has slowly been building up some momentum and Shipley is looking more and more like the running back of the future for the program and someone that NC State is going to have issues with not just on Saturday, but over the next few years. Clemson has athletes all over the field on the offense and when stacked up against a less talented team in Mississippi State, NC State really struggled with the speed and athleticism that was all around them. Clemson's speed will be an adjustment for NC State and while they have a strong defense themselves, they haven't seen anything like what Swinney will have to ready to go this weekend.

Clemson's defense has also been elite, ranking second in the country in points allowed per game, despite playing quite a respectable schedule through the first three weeks of the season. NC State will struggle to score without a doubt and even if they can score, which remains a major question, it remains to be seen how well they might be able to slow down Clemson. Expect the Tigers to go on the road and right the ship, as they prove that they are a Clemson team to be taken seriously this season.

Prediction: Clemson (-10)

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While Clemson has historically had one of the nation's best offenses, their defense is the focal point of this year's team so far. They didn't allow an offensive touchdown to an elite Georgia team and given NC State is quite a few runs below the Bulldogs, there are serious questions as to if the Wolfpack will find the endzone on Saturday. Clemson's offense has been awful so far and while there is an expectation for a return to normalcy one of these weeks, it's unlikely that this group will ever get to the point of putting up the numbers that the Lawrence-led offense did in previous years.

NC State's defense ranks fifth in FBS in points allowed per game themselves though, and Saturday isn't the game to see Clemson put up 40 points. Additionally, according to covers.com, for Clemson, the under is 5-0 in their last five games on grass. For NC State, the under is 5-0 in their last five games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game and is 4-0 in their last four games following an ATS win.

Prediction: Under 47
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Written By Eric Ploch , "Eric P."

Eric grew up surrounded by sports, whether it was spending the weekend catching games in person or on tv, or heading out to the fields to play whatever sport was in season. What started as a hobby, soon became a passion, as he became the sports editor of his high school newspaper, then wrote for his university newspaper during his undergrad years. After obtaining a degree in Sports Operations and Promotions, and spending 8 years deeply immersed in the sports world, Eric decided to take his love for analytics and predictions, and his experience, to online sports fans everywhere. James is now an integral part of our team here at StatSalt and has also been a very successful sports bettor over the years. Be sure and follow him daily.