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Clemson Should Be On Upset Alert At N.C. State

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Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images.

The Clemson Tigers, currently ranked third in the Associated Press poll, have looked solid in winning their first two games of the season. Their win over Georgia single-handedly gained respect for the ACC and established themselves as a legitimate national championship contender. So why in the world are they in danger of falling to a team in their ACC opener Thursday night with only one winning conference record since 2002?

The Tigers are listed as 14-point favorites on the road, the exact margin of victory in the meeting between the two teams last season (62-48). Home teams have a long history of upsetting the apple cart on Thursday nights and Clemson has Florida State coming up in 10 days. After toppling the third-ranked Seminoles in 2012, can the Wolfpack score an upset over a Top-5 team for the second straight year?

The Case For Clemson

The Tigers clearly have a better team. Tajh Boyd and Sammie Watkins are elite players and few defenses have been able to contain them the last several seasons. Clemson had 754 yards of offense and Boyd accounted for eight touchdowns in last year’s game.

The Wolfpack nearly lost to FCS member Richmond in their last contest and to turn around 11 days later and upset the Tigers seems like a monumental task. North Carolina State’s secondary is in flux and has not looked good in the early going. This is a matchup Boyd and company should exploit rather easily.

Head coach Dabo Sweeney has preached all week about not looking past any opponent. The Wolfpack is down to backup quarterback Pete Thomas, who has looked slightly shaky in the time he’s been on the field.

The Case For North Carolina State

The Wolfpack accumulated nearly 1,000 yards of total offense through its first two games against Louisiana Tech and Richmond. Turnovers prevented these yards from turning into a ton of points, but N.C. State should have success against a Tigers defense that was only able to stop Georgia with turnovers of their own. For an underdog to have any chance of pulling off this significant of an upset, they must win the turnover battle.

The last time the two teams met in Raleigh, the Wolfpack prevailed 37-14. That said, Clemson did have the Atlantic Division clinched and Sweeney chose to rest most of his key players for the following contest vs. rival South Carolina. Oops.

The depth chart is thin at wideout for Clemson after losing Charone Peake for the season. If the Wolfpack can contain Watkins and force Boyd to look for his other receivers, they might have a chance to keep the scoring down.

The Winner

This might be a classic case in which the team that possesses the ball last snatches the victory. No matter how good the Tigers look at times, there is always one game a season that they blow when they are heavy favorites.  This appears to be as good an opportunity as any.

North Carolina State 37, Clemson 34