The Clemson Tigers are likely going to be playing in the ACC Championship Game in the very near future, but the North Carolina State Wolfpack can throw a wrench into those plans on Saturday.
After narrowly escaping with their lives against Wake Forest this past Saturday, the Tigers are going to have their work cut out for them on the road against NC State. The Wolfpack is not a great team, but this is a golden opportunity for them to play spoiler for the home crowd.
One way or another, this is definitely not a game Clemson can afford to lose. Let's take a closer look at the matchup.
Where: Carter-Finley Stadium
When: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Clemson -7.5, according to Sportsbook.
Earlier in the season, this spread would have been a no-brainer. In the last two weeks, though, Clemson has not been as sharp offensively and its defense hasn't exactly picked up the slack. Even against a weak offensive team like NC State, the Tigers may have trouble covering.
Over/Under: 52.5 points, according to Sportsbook.
The Tigers' days of scoring 50 points per game came and went all too quickly. The ceiling for them right now is probably about 35 points, and I'd be surprised if they got that far against NC State. However, I do expect NC State to have its best offensive game in weeks, meaning that the over could be the best way to go here.
The big one for Clemson is star wide receiver Sammy Watkins. He's dealing with a shoulder injury, and the word from Clemson reporter Will Vandervort is that Watkins will be a game-time decision.
Aside from Watkins, the USA Today lists kicker Spencer Benton (shoulder) and wide receiver Joe Craig (undisclosed) as questionable, and tackle Phillip Price (knee) as doubtful.
On the NC State side of things, fullback Taylor Gentry (ankle), defensive tackle Thomas Teal (foot) and guard R.J. Mattes (undisclosed) are all questionable.
BCS/Top 25 Poll Implications
The Tigers are No. 7 in the BCS rankings right now, but I think that's irrelevant. I don't think they're going to be able to do enough to get into the national championship game, which means that the best they can do is make it into the Orange Bowl.
To make it to the Orange Bowl, Clemson needs to win the ACC. It doesn't matter where its final rank is.
Keys to Clemson Win
More than anything, Tajh Boyd needs to break out of his mini-slump. He was in Heisman contention for much of the season, but in the last two weeks he's thrown four interceptions and just three touchdown passes. If he can avoid throwing the ball to the wrong team, I think the Tigers are going to be just fine.
Keys to North Carolina State Win
I hinted at it above, but one thing the Wolfpack can do is take the football away. That's as good a way as any for them to make things a bit easier for their offense, and the Wolfpack is going to need as much offense as they can get to beat Clemson.
Prediction: Clemson 31, NC State 27
I have a feeling Clemson is going to look much like it did in the last two weeks. That essentially means the Tigers are going to be somewhere between good and just okay. Playing on the road against a fired-up NC State team, I think the Tigers barely escape with their lives.