Game Prediction: #9 Clemson Tigers at NC State Wolfpack

Irish Breakdown makes predictions for the matchup between Clemson and NC State
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Clemson hasn't lost to a traditional ACC team - meaning an ACC not named Notre Dame - since the 2017 season, but the Tigers are scuffling early in the season. Clemson has scored just 17 points against two FBS opponents and are coming off a 14-8 win over a poor Georgia Tech squad.

The Tigers must travel to NC State this weekend and face a quality NC State squad that is looking to pull off a major upset. A road loss to Mississippi State was sandwiched between a 45-0 win over South Florida and a 45-7 win over Forman.

Clemson is now in a single elimination situation for the College Football Playoff while the Wolfpack are hoping to pickup a program changing victory.

BRYAN DRISKELL, PUBLISHER

Prediction: NC State 24, Clemson 20

I predicted before the season that Clemson would suffer an ACC loss this season and nothing I've seen so far has made me change my mind. Clemson's offensive line has been a mess so far and the NC State defense has been salty this season, including holding its first three opponents to an average of 72.7 rushing yards per game.

Clemson has enough speed on the perimeter to present problems to NC State but protecting the quarterback and getting any type of ground game going has been an issue.

For NC State the key is limiting big plays on defense and then giving Devin Leary time to attack a vulnerable Clemson secondary. In the two wins the Wolfpack averaged 255.5 rushing yards but went for just 34 against Mississippi State. If NC State wants to pull off this upset it will need to get Zonovan Knight going against an outstanding Clemson defense, which will keep some of the pressure off Leary.

These are the games that Dave Doeren teams have often folded in the past, which makes me nervous about picking the Wolfpack, but if it doesn't happen now it's just not going to happen with him in charge.

VINCE DEDARIO, FOOTBALL ANALYST

Prediction: Clemson 19, NC State 12

Clemson will be on upset alert all year because of that offense. They just cannot score when they need to and counting on a freshman running back will bite them eventually. I just do not think it will bite them here. The Tigers defense is just too good. They will keep Clemson in this game and probably win it for them with a defensive score. Again, I’ll take the tigers but I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset. 

ANDREW McDONOUGH, IB CONTRIBUTOR

Prediction: Clemson 38, NC State 16

Much of the attention this season has been focused on the struggles of Clemson’s offense in QB DJ Uiagalelei’s first season as the starting QB. Hampered by suspect offensive line play and the lack of a consistent running game, Uiagalelei is averaging only 158 passing YPG and has thrown only a single touchdown. On the flip side though, Clemson’s defense has been outstanding. Led by LB James Skalski (who seems to be in his 10th season at the school) and a talented defensive line, the Tigers have not allowed an offensive touchdown all season.

Sometimes, playing in a true road game is what it takes for a team to gel (the Georgia game was at a neutral site and was before a majority-Clemson crowd). In most seasons, this would be a trap game as Clemson faces Boston College – arguably their top challenger in the ACC – next weekend. But, heading into Raleigh and surrounded by negative media attention, I expect a proud Tigers football team to come out with an “us against the world” mentality and play angry against an NC State team that has some talent in QB Devin Leary and RB Zonovan Knight, but is facing Clemson the wrong weekend. 

SHAUN DAVIS, ESPN CHICAGO

Prediction: Clemson 23, NC State 17

It’s safe to say that a good start by the Wolfpack would go a long way to them being able to pull off an upset. The running game will be the key for the Wolfpack as their tandem has run for 6.5 yards per carry this season. The Tigers have allowed 3.1 yards per carry with 21 tackles for loss and zero touchdowns on the ground. The goalline stand that sealed the victory against Georgia Tech was epic. 

Enter Devin Leary and his pass catchers. Their ability to convert on third down and make the big plays when they avail themselves will give them the best chance late in the 4th quarter. Clemson’s passing game can’t be depended upon at this point, averaging 4.8 yards per play. They haven’t been able to create big plays and they might have to lean on Will Shipley to carry the load on the road in this ACC tilt. 

RYAN ROBERTS, RISENDRAFT

Prediction: Clemson 35, NC State 17

Call it a mini "get right game". Clemson has been less than inspiring early. Their offense is in drastic need of some self-evaluation to find their identity. I think they get it on track a little bit. Add in a stout Clemson defense and they should be able to hold Devin Leary and crew at bay for this one. 

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