0One of Week 8’s most anticipated contests features a pair of undefeated and nationally ranked ACC teams. While the #3 Clemson Tigers are where they were expected to be with a perfect mark of 6-0, the fact that the NC State Wolfpack are 5-0 and ranked #16 in the nation is a bit on the surprising side.
These two squads are one-two in the ACC Atlantic division, so this game will go a long way towards settling the conference as the season moves along. In addition, a meeting of two nationally ranked clubs will certainly have a massive impact on next week’s polls.
If Clemson wins by a healthy margin, it will be business as usual in their world, and they should maintain a top 3 ranking pending the weekend’s other results. If NC State takes them down to the wire, it’s not out of the question for them to drop a spot in the polls. If they happen to lose, then they’re obviously heading south in next week’s rankings.
It’s the opposite story for NC State. A big upset win will almost undoubtedly catapult the squad into the Top 10. They can still hang onto a spot in the Top 25 with a close loss, but a defeat of the blowout variety could make their ranking in the eyes of the polls a little tenuous.
Let’s take a look at what both teams are bringing to the table for looks to be an awfully entertaining matchup.
NC State @ Clemson, 3:30 PM EST, ESPN
- NC State +16.5 (+105)
- Clemson -16.5 (-125)
- NC State +635
- Clemson -850
- Over 56 (-110)
- Under 56 (-110)
NC State vs. Clemson pick:
While NC State started off the season with a pair of victories over lesser competition, they look to be getting better as the season moves along. Hurricane Florence led to the cancellation of their Week 3 game with West Virginia, but the club came out of the unexpected bye like a ball of fire in rattling off three more victories in a row.
Marshall and Virginia were the next two victims, while the club took down Boston College by a score of 28-23 its last time out. For the season, the Wolfpack has outscored foes by a margin of 165-84, or an average of 33 to 26.8 per game. NC State has a balanced approach on both offense and defense, with the latter unit producing 13 sacks, eight turnovers, and a defensive score on the season.
On offense, senior signal caller Ryan Finley has put together a fine season. He’s completing 69.5 percent of his passes for 1,621 yards, 10 TDs, and three picks so far. Senior RB Reggie Gallaspy II has been the star in the backfield, producing a line of 89/324/7. Junior wideout Kelvin Harmon has emerged as the top option in the passing game, hauling in 33 balls for 534 yards and two scores.
Clemson has had several dominating wins this season, but the club was also taken to the limit a pair of times. Texas A&M nearly scored an upset in Week 2, while Syracuse almost pulled out a victory over the Tigers a couple of weeks ago. Last week, Clemson rolled over Wake Forest to the tune of 63-3.
For the season, Clemson is outscoring opponents by a margin of 253-87, or an average of 42.2 to 14.5 per game. The offense is productive in both facets, but the run game is averaging a dominant 280.8 yards per contest. The team’s defense is stifling opponents both in the air and on the ground. The unit has compiled 20 sacks and eight turnovers on the year.
The quarterback position looks to be finally settled for Clemson, as freshman Trevor Lawrence has the keys to the offense. He has thrown for 11 scores and two picks so far this year. He has a number of talented pass catchers at his disposal, but the story on offense has been the dynamic Travis Etienne, the Tigers sophomore phenom at running back. Etienne has a line of 83/761/11 so far, and he has added on a receiving touchdown for food measure.
These two programs have quite the history together. They first met way back in 1899, a 24-0 victory for Clemson over what was then known as North Carolina A&M. The two squads have met 86 times in total, with Clemson holding an overall series lead of 57-28-1.
Clemson holds a clear edge over the past decade with a record of 9-1 straight up, but the Tigers are just 3-7 against the spread over that span. The Over has been the correct choice four times in the last ten meetings of these two programs, including in two of the last three years. Last season, Clemson was a 38-31 road victor in a game in which it was favored by 10 points.
This year’s spread is 16.5 points, and you have to go all the way back to 2014 to find a margin of victory that was that large in this series – a 41-0 win for Clemson. For the last three years, the margin of victory has been 15 points or less, with Clemson winning all three contests.
As the #3 team in the nation, Clemson is clearly the more talented squad. The Tigers entered the season with national championship aspirations, and there’s nothing to suggest that goal is a pipe dream. That said, Clemson has been tested twice so far, and seeing them tested here wouldn’t be a surprise.
NC State is playing well on both sides of the ball, but this is obviously the team’s stiffest test of the season. Pulling off a massive road upset may me too much of an ask, but expecting the Wolfpack to keep this one close and respectable is not.
We’ll look for Clemson to win outright, but we don’t see them covering such a hefty spread against a hungry opponent. Our pick is NC State plus the points.