If there’s one team that the Clemson program has absolutely owned in the Dabo Swinney era, it’s North Carolina State. The Tigers have won 7 straight over the Wolfpack, and 14 of the last 15 overall. The last time NC State got a win over Clemson was back in 2011.
Current NCST head coach Dave Doeren is winless against the Tigers, and hasn’t been the best sport in some of those losses. Although, in his first game coaching against the Tigers, OL Isaiah Battle decked a DB from NCST. That seemed to start a chain reaction of sorts. In most of the games since it seems there has been some sort of controversy, all coming from one side.
In 2015, one of Doeren’s assistants shoved then Tigers QB Deshaun Watson in the back, following a play on the sideline. In 2016, Clemson RB Wayne Gallman was knocked out after a viscous hit, with Doeren saying the next day that it was part of the gameplan. In 2017, there was the crazy (and petty) accusations concerning a laptop on the Clemson sideline. That was also the game that NCST DE Bradley Chubb kept taking Kelly Bryant’s towel, another petty, Busch League move that Doeren seemed to endorse.
Two of those games were tightly contested. Outside of that, most have been fairly one sided during the current seven game winning streak over the Pack. That includes last years 41-7 blowout win in Death Valley, and this years matchup in Raleigh has all the makings of another lopsided victory for Clemson.
2019 was supposed to be a rebuilding season for Doeren and the Wolfpack. However, no one was expecting them to be quite as bad as they have been. Sitting at 4-4, and just 1-3 in the ACC, they own just one win over a P5 team. That was their 16-10 win at home over Syracuse, a team that happens to be winless in ACC play.
They are 4-0 at home, and Carter Finley can be a wild environment. It can get particularly raucous at night, and this one is set for a 7:30 pm kickoff. Getting this game at home looks to be the only thing the Wolfpack have going their way, and Vegas doesn’t see that as much of an advantage. Clemson is a 31.5 point favorite and the FPI has them with more than a 97% chance of winning.
On paper it looks like the Tigers have a great shot at extending their winning streak to 8 games over NCST. In their last two games the Wolfpack have given up over 550 yards on the ground. Travis Etienne and Lyn-J Dixon have to be salivating watching the film of those two games. To make matters worse, their offense has been so bad, Doeren turned to Devin Leary at QB for last weekends game against Wake Forest. This is a guy who was the 3rd string QB coming out of camp, and it showed. The redshirt freshman went 17-45 for just 149 yards, with 2 picks and a TD pass in his first career start.
This is a young, and banged up NC State team. Against Wake Forest, 31% of the snaps were played by freshman. They have had 20 players miss at least one game injured, with 14 of those missing multiple games. Three more left last weeks game injured. Speaking to local media earlier today about this weekends game, Doeren said,
“We have nothing to lose in this football game. Just go play as hard as we can, be better than we were the week before and finish plays better than we did the week before. Anything can happen.”
The Tigers have had some slow starts on the road this season. Saturday night, they need to come out sharp, the way they have the last couple of weeks. They need to take this crowd out of the game early, seeing as it is the only real advantage they have. We have seen a couple of complete games from this Tiger team over the past two weeks, but those were at home. The calendar has now turned to November. It is now time to put a complete game together on the road, and taking another step towards getting ready for the postseason in the process.