Clemson heads to Raleigh on Saturday for a matchup with North Carolina State in what will be the ninth-ranked Tigers' first true road game of the season.
Dabo Swinney's team looks to continue their dominance in the series as Clemson has won eight in a row over the Wolfpack and 15 of the past 16.
Clemson comes in having had its share of struggles on the offensive side of the ball and will be looking for D.J. Uiagalelei and the rest of that group to take a big step forward. At the same time, the Tigers bring with them a defense that looks to be as good as any in the country and has shown it is capable of carrying the load while the offense tries and finds its footing.
5 Storylines to Follow
1. Offensive Line Rotation: After repeatedly hearing the coaches say they had at least eight offensive linemen they felt like they could win with, the backups got no playing time in last week's win over Georgia Tech. Paul Tchio, Mitchell Mayes and Hunter Rayburn all watched from the sideline as freshman Marcus Tate appeared to struggle mightily against the three-man front Tech showed at times. Although to be fair, he wasn't the only one who struggled. Far too often it looked like there was confusion, with guys not knowing who to block. Dabo Swinney admitted after the game that the coaching staff has to be better at rotating guys. One way or another, the Tigers have to be better up front.
Clemson Coaches 'Have to do a Better Job'
After a disappointing 17-point performance, the Tigers still believe they are close to putting everything together to return to the high-octane offense that fans are used to seeing.
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2. Explosive Plays: One of the biggest factors in the Tigers' lack of success on offense has been a lack of explosive plays. The Tigers have an explosive play rate of just eight percent through the first three games after being closer to 20 percent a season ago and over 18 percent in 2019. Where the offense has really struggled is the vertical passing game. Last week in the narrow win over Georgia Tech, Clemson never even really attempted to push the ball down the field. If this team is going to have success, that must change.
3. Offensive Game Plan: The coaching staff was caught off guard last week by what Georgia Tech did on defense. The Yellow Jackets continually rushed just three guys, while dropping eight into coverage, especially in that first half. In turn, Clemson decided to try and take what the defense was giving them and run the ball. With NC State employing a 3-3-5 look, the Tigers can expect more of the same this weekend in Raleigh, but the difference is this time they know it's coming. Will this offense once again just take what it's being given, or instead, will they try to be aggressive and dictate things to the Wolfpack defense.
4. Can Defense Hold Up: This Clemson defense has been nothing short of remarkable. They have yet to allow a touchdown through the first three games and have really carried this team on its back. At a certain point, this group is going to need the offense to pull its own weight and put some points on the board. Taking the field each and every week knowing you have no margin for error and have to play almost perfectly, due to your team's inability to score, that is not a recipe for success.
Dabo Swinney vs Dave Doeren: There is absolutely no love lost between these two head coaches. It seems like every time these two teams play, there is another chapter written regarding the rivalry between the two. There was the NCST assistant taking a swipe at Deshaun Watson. Doeren boasting about his team knocking Clemson RB Wayne Gallman out of a game. Doeren accusing Clemson of cheating via laptops on the sideline. Bradley Chubb constantly stealing towels from QB Kelly Bryant. The frosty handshake. In every one of these instances, Swinney and the Tigers got the last laugh. It is very likely another chapter will be written on Saturday.
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