Three games into the season and this Clemson team still has more questions than answers. At least on the offensive side of the ball anyways.
The ninth-ranked Tigers head to Raleigh this weekend for their first true road game of the season, with Clemson having won eight straight and 16 of 17 over the Wolfpack.
However, while the Tigers still have plenty of questions, this NC State team has plenty of unknowns as well. We just do not know much about this Wolfpack team. They have beaten up on two non Power-5 teams and lost by two touchdowns on the road at Mississippi State.
The Wolfpack employ a 3-3-5 scheme similar to what Clemson saw against Georgia Tech last week, and we all saw how the Tigers fared against it. The difference is, this time they will have prepared for it.
More good news is the Wolfpack had no luck getting pressure on Mississippi State QB Will Rogers, who threw for 295 yards against the NCST defense, which bodes well for a Clemson offensive line that just hasn’t played well.
However, as bad as the Tigers have looked on offense, it seemed like they might have found something late against Georgia Tech. Clemson decided to just start running the power, got D.J. Uiagalelei involved in the running game, and started having some success. We saw some fire out of those guys, something we had not seen up until that point.
Expect to see more of that in Raleigh. Expect the Tigers to get Uiagalelei more involved in the running game on designed runs and get him involved early. Maybe that leads to some success passing the ball down the field, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, Clemson has to run the ball effectively.
Although, the biggest question for me in this game is how does Dave Doeren decide to attack this Clemson defense. The Wolfpack ran it at will in their two wins, but running backs Bam Knight and Ricky Person Jr. were absolutely shut down in Starkville, and quarterback Devin Leary ended up throwing the ball almost 50 times.
Even without Tyler Davis, the Clemson defense should be able to stymie this NC State ground game and force this Wolfpack offense into a ton of third and long situations. And that’s when Brent Venables defense will really shine. For a fourth straight game, this unit will not allow a touchdown.
While I don’t expect this Clemson offense to get well against this NCST defense, seeing as it’s a pretty solid group with a ton of experience, I do expect they can do enough to come out of this thing with a victory, meaning Doeren will have to keep waiting for his signature win.
Clemson 16 NC State 9
Sam Clemons: With so much upheaval within the fanbase and so many unanswered questions on the field, this game could go in two very different directions. Transfers, injuries, the offense almost non-existent, if there is a survival instinct within this team, it will need to show itself on Saturday. If the defense can continue as it has thus far, Clemson most likely will need minimal offensive output to win but some offensive output will be a must. They get it.
Clemson 17 NC State 13
Freddie Huth: There’s been all kinds of criticism about the offensive output, not only last weeks, but since the season began and rightfully so. Look for DJ Uiagalelei and the Tigers offense to finally get it together and silence a few of the critics Saturday. The Fighting Doerens will keep it close throughout the game but the Clemson offense gives the defense that help they’ve been waiting for and the Tiger faithful finally get to breathe a sigh of relief.
Clemson 24 NC State 10
Ted Jackson: This will be close because Clemson will continue to struggle offensively. The first road test in ACC play will prove tough for a sputtering offense to find any significant improvement. This game will be won or lost at the line of scrimmage. Look for the Tigers to be on upset alert by talking heads.
Clemson 20 NC State 13