Last week’s results: No. 3 Clemson (2-0) beat South Carolina State 52-13.
N.C. State (2-0) beat Richmond 23-21.
Most important storylines of the week
1. Can Clemson put 2011 behind?: Two years ago, the Tigers rolled into Carter-Finley Stadium utterly uninspired after clinching the ACC Atlantic Division title a week earlier against Wake Forest. It showed, too. Clemson committed four turnovers in an ugly 37-13 defeat at N.C. State’s hands. It was part of a larger slide that saw the Tigers go 2-4 over their final six games, finishing with a dismal 70-33 Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia.
The core of that 2011 team is now a standout upper class: Clemson played a nation’s-most 29 freshmen that season. That loss has been brought up repeatedly over the last week-plus with the belief being that a more mature team will avoid such a pitfall.
“It was a disappointing game,” said senior quarterback Tajh Boyd. “We didn’t handle business when we went up there. We’d just clinched the division, and we could have gotten a little lax. We didn’t know what to expect when we went up there.
“I felt we weren’t a very mature team in that situation. We went out there and turned the ball over. They were fired up and ready to play. It’s something we have to be ready for this year.”
2. How will Clemson handle the loss of Charone Peake?: The Tigers’ wide receiver corps took a major blow during the off week when junior Peake, the No. 2 wideout behind Sammy Watkins, suffered a torn ACL during a non-contact drill.
Versatile junior Adam Humphries (seven receptions, 53 yards) will move into a starting role, but the burden will be greater for all six remaining healthy scholarship receivers. Junior Sammy Watkins (nine catches, 146 yards, 1 TD) will remain the top dog, but others like junior Martavis Bryant (four receptions, 87 yards) also must contribute more.
In addition, redshirt freshman Germone Hopper, who had six catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns against S.C. State, will be leaned on more heavily, and freshmen T.J. Green and Mike Williams will see their development accelerated.
“They’ve had some really good practices,” Boyd said. “They have to grow up. It’s not that they want to grow up. They need to grow up.”
3. Can Clemson stop N.C. State’s running attack?: The Wolfpack feature a large, physical line, and while new coach Dave Doeren has a fast-paced offense, he likes to run. The Pack averages 212.5 rushing yards per game, fourth in the ACC. Freshman Matt Dayes averages 63.5 rushing yards per game, while junior Tony Creecy averages 51.5. Quarterback Paul Thomas is not afraid to run, either; he averages 22.5 rushing yards per game.
Clemson yields 154 rushing yards per game, ninth-best in the ACC. While Dayes and Creecy are not of the caliber of Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, the Pack will try and establish their offense with a solid ground game, and the Tigers’ front seven must be prepared.
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET, Thursday
Place: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.
Radio: Clemson and N.C. State radio networks (regional); ESPN (national)
Spread: Clemson -13.5 via VegasInsider.com
*Unless noted, all quotes in this story were gathered first-hand by the author.