There are very real, historical trends that favor No. 5 Clemson in Saturday's 7:30 p.m. showdown with No. 10 NC State.
The Tigers have won 10 consecutive games, the longest in the winning streak in FBS. Clemson's won 36 consecutive home games, also the longest streak in the country. A victory Saturday would tie Florida State for the most consecutive home wins in ACC history.
The Tigers have beaten NC State eight times in the Wolfpack's last eight trips to Memorial Stadium. Clemson is 21-7 against NC State when both teams are ranked in the AP Top 25.
And then there are stats like this one, shared by Tim Bourret, a retired Clemson and Hall of Fame sports information director and current commentator for the Clemson Athletic Network broadcast team: The Tigers are playing their 27th top-10 matchup. The Wolfpack are playing in their FIRST top-10 matchup.
Trends are one thing. Having no trend on one side of the historical equation is another. Does that lack of experience in this kind of big game matter for NC State? Is it an overrated stat for Clemson?
It's one of those things you have to choose for yourself, but sometimes, the game seems to be played beyond the Xs and Os. How 18- to 21-year-old men and the coaches who work with them handle pressure, adversity and big-game situations matter, too.
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Clemson is used to being in the pressure cooker, even if not all of these players have partaken in a large number of big games. It's part of the culture Dabo Swinney has developed. Since 2014, or the College Football Playoff era, the Tigers are 11-6 against top-10 opponents.
Meanwhile, NC State is 5-18 vs. top-25 teams since Dave Doeren took over in 2013. One of those victories includes last year's 27-21 win over then-No. 9 Clemson at Carter-Finley Stadium.
That seems like a lot to overcome for the Wolfpack, but it also depends on how you view trends. The counterpoint to all this is that rankings don't really matter. After all, the polls are subjective and not an accurate indicator of overall team strength. It's how voters feel about a team or a justification for another ranking.
So there are plenty of flaws to point out in using stats like the eye-popper above. But rankings do matter in terms of perception, and the perception is that Clemson is used to big-time games and has a history of doing quite well at home against highly-ranked teams.
Will that continue or did NC State's shocking, get-over-the-hump victory last year turn the tide in both this series and ACC Atlantic supremacy?
That is why they play the game.
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