The No. 3-ranked Clemson Tigers are heading to Raleigh to take on the NC State Wolfpack in an exciting Thursday night showdown between two quality ACC programs.
Clemson is a huge favorite going into the game, but anything can happen during a heated conference battle. It’s a matchup that no self-respecting college football fan will want to miss.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET, and you can catch the action on ESPN. Continue reading to find out whom you should keep an eye on, and become more knowledgeable about the star players on the field Thursday night.
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Tajh Boyd was nothing short of special to start the season against the Georgia Bulldogs, but he cooled off a bit in a blowout victory over the South Carolina State Bulldogs Sept. 7.
Needless to say, in this era of 24-hour news cycles and “what have you done for me lately?” fandom, Boyd’s 18-of-30 passing performance for 270 yards and three touchdowns, plus 13 rushes for 42 yards and two more scores against UGA, has been somewhat forgotten.
The senior will look to put himself back on the map Thursday evening against the Wolfpack and should be able to get it done against a relatively soft secondary.
NC State’s defensive backs and pass rush conceded 300 yards and two touchdowns to quarterback Michael Strauss of the Richmond Spiders and has yet to record a single interception on the year.
Given Boyd’s elusiveness—something Strauss isn’t known for—you are looking at the recipe for a big game. The Tigers signal-caller should be using his arms and legs to pick apart the Wolfpack’s coverage and get his name back in the discussion as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Robert Caldwell, LB, NC State
This senior linebacker has been racking up tackles and helping NC State become one of the top scoring defenses in the nation.
Robert Caldwell has recorded 19 tackles in just two games, with nine of those being made solo. He seems to be all over the field and in on every play, which is exactly what the Wolfpack will need from him in this upcoming contest.
NC State is giving up just 17.5 points per game—ranked No. 31 in the country in that category—but has yet to face a quality opponent like Clemson.
Caldwell and the rest of these defenders will be tested to the fullest. If he can answer the call and inspire his teammates to do the same, the Wolfpack have a slim shot at pulling off an upset.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Sammy Watkins is quickly emerging as one of the top receivers in the college game, as the junior stepped up to the plate in the season opener to haul in six receptions for 127 yards and a score.
Like most of the first-string offense, Watkins took it easy in Week 2 against South Carolina State and only finished with three catches for 19 yards.
Which team will win?
He’s going to need to get back to full speed in a hurry, as NC State projects to defend the wideout with more skilled defensive backs and double-coverage looks.
At 6’1” and 205 pounds and in possession of blazing speed, it would be surprising if Watkins didn’t get his numbers against a group that conceded five catches, 94 yards and a score to unheralded Richmond receiver Stephen Barnette.
The Clemson star is clearly more talented but will face a variety of looks and coverages designed to deter his chances of making an impact. Tune in Thursday night to see if that strategy is successful.