Image courtesy of College Football News
#5 Clemson Tigers (9-0 Overall, 6-0 in ACC Atlantic)
North Carolina State Wolfpack (4-4 Overall, 1-3 in ACC Atlantic)
Saturday, November 9, 2019 @ 7:30 PM EST
Carter-Finley Stadium (Raleigh, NC)
Moneyline: CLEM (-13500), NC State +5500)
Spread: CLEM -33.5 (-110), NC State +33.5 (-110)
Total: Over/Under 54 (-110)
Odds courtesy of MyBookie
Game Preview: Clemson
Clemson will likely be coming into this game with a chip on their shoulder, as they were left out of the top four in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season on Tuesday night. Coming in at No. 5 is no big deal for the defending champions right now, but the Tigers’ only remaining game against another ranked team will be when they face No. 22 Wake Forest next week. Clemson should have no problem winning the ACC Championship. Ohio State and Penn State will face each other, so one of them will have at least one loss. LSU and Alabama face each other this week, so one of them will have at least one loss. But, they’ll still need to win their final three regular season games in convincing fashion to propel themselves into the CFP.
In the Tigers’ four games since their narrow escape from Chapel Hill in Week 5 (Clemson: 21-UNC: 20), they’ve ramped things up a bit, winning by an average of over 40 points per game and allowing a total of 45 points. One huge reason for this improvement has been their big uptick in turnovers forced and their decrease in turnovers. Going into their bye week (Week 6), the Tigers were minus-one in turnover margin and had three games with multiple turnovers. Since then, they’ve turned the ball over just four times and have forced 10 turnovers, moving their way up to a tie for eighth in the country in turnovers forced (18).
Speaking of forcing turnovers, Clemson’s defense has been outstanding this year in nearly every area, as they rank sixth in the country in scoring defense (11.7 PPG) and have allowed more than 14 points just once. The Tigers have yet to allow 300 yards of total offense and rank fourth in the country in total defense, allowing just 247.2 YPG. They’ve held opposing quarterbacks to an abysmal 47.3% completion percentage and have allowed the second-least passing yards per game this year at just 134 YPG. Their run defense isn’t as impressive, but is still ranked 21st in the country, as they allow just 113.2 YPG on the ground. This defense is in the top tier of college football yet again and should have a great day against a below-average North Carolina State offensive attack, which is led by true freshman quarterback, Devin Leary.
On the other side of the ball, Clemson has looked dominant as any offense in the country in their past four games, averaging a jaw-dropping 620 yards and 52 points per game. Sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence and junior running back Travis Etienne were the most dynamic duo in college football last season, and ever since their Week 5 scare against UNC, they’ve looked the part.
Lawrence struggled early, completing just under 62% of his passes for 226.2 yards per game, eight touchdowns and five interceptions in this season’s first five games. In the four games since, he’s completed just over 73% of his passes for 224 yards per game, 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He’s looked even better in the past two games, completing 28 of 35 passes for 493 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions. So, I think it’s safe to say that Trevor Lawrence is back to looking like the quarterback that dominated the 2019 College Football Playoff en route to a National Championship title.
After finishing seventh in Heisman voting last season, Travis Etienne has seemingly fallen off the national radar in this year’s race. That was mostly due to his somewhat disappointing performance to start the season. But he’s turned it around over the past four weeks, running for over 660 total yards on over 11 yards per carry and scoring seven total touchdowns.
Game Preview: NC State
The Wolfpack are limping into a matchup with the fifth-ranked Clemson Tigers. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for success to me. North Carolina State has gone 1-3 and has been outscored by an average of nearly 17 points per game in their last four games. They have the 50th-ranked scoring defense, which is actually above average. But, they’ve allowed 89 points in their last two games and that impressive scoring defense is inflated quite a bit, thanks to their six total points allowed against 3-6 East Carolina and FCS opponent, Western Carolina.
The Wolfpack defense has struggled all season against the pass, but have been surprisingly good against the run, ranking 27th in the country in rushing YPG allowed. Once again, recent trends have shown that they may not be as good as the numbers look against the run, as they allowed Boston College to run for an incredible 429 yards and five touchdowns in a Week 7 loss. They’ve allowed 950 yards of offense and 89 points in their last two games, so I’d expect Clemson and Travis Etienne to take full advantage of that.
North Carolina State’s 91st-ranked pass defense should be easy to exploit for Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers, which should open up plenty of running lanes for Travis Etienne. The Wolfpack have allowed 300+ passing yards in five of their last six games.
On offense, the Wolfpack have struggled in their last four games, scoring a total of 63 points and racking up just over 341 yards per game, which would rank 110th in country over the course of the season. True freshman quarterback Devin Leary should face a ton of pressure from a Clemson defensive front that has averaged over three sacks per game. But, the Wolfpack should be able to apply some pressure on Trevor Lawrence, as they average over three sacks per game, as well. The Wolfpack are on their third different starting quarterback and may be without two of their leading rushers in Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr., so I would expect their offense to continue to trend downward.
North Carolina State just doesn’t stand a chance on Saturday. Clemson will be looking to make another statement with another dominant 40 or 50-point win. The Wolfpack haven’t beaten the Tigers since 2011 and they definitely won’t get win number two with true freshman quarterback Devin Leary under center against one of the best defenses in the country. I like the Tigers to win and cover this week, continuing their reign of terror in the ACC.