NC State vs Clemson : Arguably the two best teams in the ACC this season are set to clash on Saturday afternoon in Death Valley with tons of implications for the conference and College Football Playoff. Clemson and NC State are also the last two undefeated teams in the conference and feature two of the more talked about quarterback prospects in Ryan Finley (NC State) and Trevor Lawrence (Clemson).
The duel of these two quarterbacks and these two offenses has set the stage for an impressive showdown that will award a head-to-head advantage likely to decide who represents the Atlantic in the ACC Championship Game. For Clemson, the three-time division champs, getting past NC State has not been easy. Each of the last two games has been decided by a touchdown and the last time they played in Death Valley the game went overtime after the Wolfpack missed a field goal to win in regulation.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 20 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Memorial Stadium — Clemson, South Carolina
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN
NC State: The Wolfpack not only have an NFL-caliber quarterback but an elite wide receiver room, and Finley has kept defenses off balance by spreading the ball around. Jakobi Meyers, Kelvin Harmon and Emeka Emezie all rank in the top 10 among ACC players in receptions per game, and they’re going to be counted on to win one-on-one battles against Clemson defenders to keep drives alive on Saturday. Teams have been able to find success moving the ball through the air against Clemson this year, and in a game where the Wolfpack are staring down that tenacious Tigers defensive line, it’s going to be important for the wide receivers not only to come up with tough catches down the field but make plays in the quick passing game.
Clemson: Dabo Swinney has been more than comfortable playing “old school” ball since naming Lawrence the team’s starting quarterback, relying on his offensive line and a breakout sophomore season from Travis Etienne to power the offense while the freshman gets his sea legs. But with Clemson coming in after a week off, look for Lawrence to get unleashed a little bit and push the ball down the field. “Old school” ball is good enough for Clemson to win the ACC — they had that with Kelly Bryant a year ago — but Swinney knows they need something more to be able to win a national championship, and that’s why Lawrence, the more gifted downfield passer, is the starter.
Dave Doeren an this NC State staff have a pretty good feel for Clemson right now. Lawrence is ultimate wild card here — and possibly why the Tigers are favored by more than two touchdowns despite the last two games being decided by 14 points — but if Deshaun Watson, in a national championship year, had trouble with NC State at home I think Lawrence might as well. Clemson wins, but by 7-10 points. Pick: NC State +16.5