Last season, Clemson and N.C. State matched up in Raleigh in a game that the Tigers won 43-23. Clemson has won six straight matchups between the teams, the last three by at least 18 points.
This will be the 79th meeting between Clemson and N.C. State on the gridiron. Clemson holds the all-time lead (50-27-1) in a series that dates back to 1899. The Wolfpack, under the direction of Tom O’Brien, are 6-2 on the season and 3-1 in the ACC. The No. 25 Wolfpack are coming off a big 28-24 home win over Florida State last Thursday.
N.C. State has an all-conference quarterback in Russell Wilson. The Wolfpack star has a good arm and is also very mobile. He has 19 passing touchdowns and only 10 interceptions this season. Wilson has also accounted for five touchdowns on the ground in his junior campaign.
Freshman Mustafa Greene, who is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, leads the Wolfpack on the ground. Greene has four rushing touchdowns and is also a very capable receiver out of the backfield.
Owen Spencer has been the Wolfpack’s best receiver so far this season, tallying 36 catches. Spencer is a big target at 6'3" tall and he also possesses big play ability. Jarvis Williams and T.J. Graham are two other targets that make a lot of plays for N.C. State. They have combined for 47 catches and seven touchdowns. Graham is also a playmaker on punt returns; he could take one to the house at anytime.
At tight end, N.C. State has a reliable target in George Bryan. Bryan is one of the best in the country, and he is a big threat inside the red zone.
The Wolfpack linebackers are the leaders of the defense. The linebacking corps for N.C. State is made up of Nate Irving, Terrell Manning and Audie Cole. Irving has 59 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks this season. Manning has 46 tackles, six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Cole has 44 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and one interception.
Clemson has an overall record of 4-4 and is 2-3 in the ACC. The Tigers are coming off a tough 16-10 loss at Boston College last week.
The Tigers will show a little different look at quarterback this week. Kyle Parker will still be the starter, but head coach Dabo Swinney said Tajh Boyd would see some playing time. Parker is having a decent season with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Boyd will see his first meaningful playing time in this game.
The Clemson running game will be missing a key component this Saturday. Leading rusher Andre Ellington will be out for at least a week with a strained ligament in his foot. With Ellington out, Jamie Harper will step into the starting role. Harper is a dual threat out of the backfield with three touchdowns rushing and three touchdowns receiving this season.
Roderick “Hot Rod” McDowell will also see some touches this week. McDowell has averaged 5.3 yards per carry in limited action this season and has big play capability.
The Tigers’ most viable option through the air has been tight end Dwayne Allen, who has 27 receptions through eight games. Several young players have been emerging at wide receiver. Jaron Brown is second on the team with two touchdown catches and has a long of 74 yards.
Bryce McNeal had a career game last week against Boston College and is beginning to have a more prominent role in the offense. True freshman DeAndre “Nuke” Hopkins is second on the team with 18 catches, and he has shown consistency and big play potential.
The Clemson defense has been playing well of late and is the No. 18 scoring defense in the country. The Tigers held Boston College to just 84 yards in the second half of last week’s loss.
Da’Quan Bowers is leading the nation with 11 sacks and has a good chance of breaking the single season sack record at Clemson. Bowers is also third on the team with 48 tackles and leads the team with 18.5 tackles for loss. Jarvis Jenkins, Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson have also been forces on the defensive line, combining for 13 tackles for loss and four sacks.
The linebacking corps of Quandon Christian, Corico Hawkins and Brandon Maye has been progressing throughout the season, and they are getting better each week.
Safeties Rashard Hall and DeAndre McDaniel lead the team in tackles with 51 and 50 respectively. Cornerback Byron Maxwell has been limited recently by turf toe but is expected to be back at full strength for this week’s contest. Marcus Gilchrist has been playing well at the other corner. These four players have combined for seven interceptions.
A big key for Clemson in this game will be containing Russell Wilson. The Tigers have had trouble with mobile quarterbacks in the past, and stopping Wilson will be a difficult task.
The Tigers desperately need a win over the Wolfpack to keep any hope of a division title alive. Last week’s loss to Boston College demoralized much of the Clemson fan base, and a win this week would raise fan spirits and get everyone back to supporting the Tigers.
Clemson needs to come out and show everyone they are a better team than their record indicates. They need to show up and play hard for all four quarters to come away with a win.
Come out to Death Valley and support the Clemson Tigers against the N.C. State Wolfpack at noon on Saturday, Nov. 6. If you cannot make it to Memorial Stadium, check out the game on the ACC Network or ESPN3.com.