CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson's counting on freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson to keep the victories coming at Death Valley while North Carolina State is relying on first-year signal-caller Jacoby Brissett.
The Tigers (2-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) bounced back from a rough start to defeat North Carolina 50-35 last week. Clemson rolled to the win behind a record-setting debut from true freshman Watson, the five-star QB who threw for a school-best six TDs.
But Watson is coming up against a quarterback who's just as hot in Brissett, the Florida transfer who's transformed the Wolfpack (4-1, 0-1) this season.
Brissett leads the ACC in total offense and touchdowns accounted for this season. He helped North Carolina State build a 24-7 lead on No. 1 Florida State before falling 56-41 last week.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said while the Tigers escaped facing suspended Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston two weeks ago, Brissett presents a similar challenge for his defense.
''He's big. He looks a lot like Jameis Winston,'' Swinney said. ''He breaks tackles and extends plays.''
Much like the Tigers' newest passer in Watson, who took over for senior starter Cole Stoudt early against Florida State and has barely come out since. Watson was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation coming out of Gainesville High in Georgia and has fit in perfectly with the Tigers' fast-paced attack.
North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren hasn't had much film to watch on Watson, yet sees a similarity to Clemson's starter the past three years, Tahj Boyd. ''Tajh was a guy that could throw it down the field and he could run. We know what this guy (Watson) was like in high school,'' Doeren said.
Things to watch for when North Carolina State plays Clemson on Saturday:
QB PLAY: North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett and Clemson's Deshaun Watson have brought poise and stability to the quarterback positions of their teams. Only Heisman winner Jameis Winston has thrown for more yards per game than Brissett's 272-yard average while Watson leads the ACC in pass efficiency and has thrown 10 touchdowns in 77 pass attempts this season.
IMPROVED `PACK ATTACK: North Carolina State is leading the ACC in total offense so far, gaining 505 yards a game this season. That's up more than 100 yards from 2013 and coach Dave Doeren's first season. The Wolfpack have also scored 40 or more points in its past four games, including in a 56-41 loss to top-ranked Florida State last week. That's the first time they've ever had more than back-to-back contests with at least 40 points. ''We're just ready to get back out there and prove this offense is for real,'' North Carolina State runner Shadrach Thornton.
WHERE'S BEASLEY?: North Carolina State's offensive line has to be aware of that with the tear Clemson senior defensive end Vic Beasley is on. He leads the ACC with six sacks. In the Tigers past two games with the Wolfpack, Beasley combined for six sacks and two forced fumbles. Beasley's next sack will tie Clemson's career mark of 28, shared by Michael Dean Perry and the late Gaines Adams.
NC STATE'S GROUND GAME: The Wolfpack are averaging more than 231 yards on the ground this fall and their 14 rushing TDs are second most in the ACC. North Carolina State's top three backs of Shadrach Thornton, Matt Dayes and Tony Creecy have been tackled for loss just three times in 124 rushes. Clemson's defense will provide a strong test, allowing just 108 yards a game on the ground this year.
DEATH VALLEY STRUGGLES: North Carolina State has lost its past five games at Clemson's Memorial Stadium, its last victory coming in 2002 when Philip Rivers led the Wolfpack to a 38-6 victory at Death Valley in a Thursday night showcase. Two years ago in their last trip, the Wolfpack defense surrendered 62 points and 754 yards of offense, the second most in program history.