Time for another Road Trip!!! Textile Bowl Style. Yes my fellow Wolfpackers it’s time again for the Pack to take the show on the road, this time to Clemson, SC to battle the Tigers in Death Valley.
WHERE: Memorial Stadium (Clemson, SC)
WHEN: 3:30 pm
Records: N.C. State 4-1, 0-1 ACC, Clemson 2-2, 1-1 ACC
LAST TIME OUT
For those that don’t know the Pack dropped a hard fought game last Saturday to #1 Florida State 41-56. Two costly turnovers, one on the Pack’s 6 yard line, and poor defense (especially stopping FSU on Third Downs) ultimately cost the Pack a chance at slaying the Giant. Clemson on the other hand had a fairly easy time dispatching the Cheaters of Chapel Hill, 50-35 in Death Valley, behind the tremendous play of true freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson in his first start for the Tigers.
• Overall, Clemson has a 53-28-1 lead in the series against NC State, including a 23-11 lead in games at Clemson, a 20-11 lead in games in Death Valley. Clemson has a 19-16 lead in Raleigh and a 14-9 lead in games played at Carter Finley Stadium
• Clemson has won the last two games of the series and nine of the last 10. Clem¬son has won the last five games in Memorial Stadium, but all five have been decided by 14 points or less. That includes a 62-48 Clemson win in 2012, the last time the two teams met at Clemson.
• Clemson has won 20 consecutive games against unranked teams since NC State beat the Tigers in Raleigh in 2011 by a 37-13 score.
• NC State was Clemson’s nemesis team from 1986-88. The Tigers won the ACC Cham¬pionship each year under Danny Ford, but never beat the Pack in the process, losing all three seasons. It was the only loss for Clemson in the ACC in each of those years.
While Clemson may be 2-2 overall, losing badly to UGA 21-45 and in OT to FSU, they have an incredible defense. Their strength is in their front seven, getting terrific play from DE Vic Beasley and LB Stephone Anthony. The DL creates a lot of pressure on the QB with their penetration garnering 14.5 TFL and 9 Sacks so far. The LB’s are getting the majority of the tackles but also get penetration on blitzes as well. These guys are big and fast and cause havoc. Don’t forget about Clemson’s secondary though, their Safeties are also a strength on this team. Led by SR Robert Smith, as a group the safeties have 52 Tackles and 4 INT’s. It will be interesting to see how well the Pack’s OL can handle them and could go a long way in determining the outcome of the game. If the Pack’s OL can protect Brissett, giving him enough time to find the open man, and open up some running lanes for State’s RB’s then I think the Pack have a chance of stealing a road win.
Players of Interest:
#42 LB (SR) Stephone Anthony: 25 Tackles. 7.0 TFL. 1 Sack.
#3 DE (R-Gr) Vic Beasley: 13 Tackles. 7.0 TFL. 6.0 Sacks.
#18 S (SO) Jadar Johnson: 5 Tackles. 2 INTs.
#20 S (SO) Jayron Kearse: 25 Tackles and 1 INT.
Dabo decided to take the plunge and bench Senior QB Cole Stoudt in favor of true freshman Deshaun Watson and the “gamble” worked against the worst defense in the country (UNC). It’s not that Stoudt was bad, he has a 61.8% completion rate, 487 yds passing, and efficiency of 123.8 but he has only 1 TD (and 1 INT) and only averages 121.8 yards/game. On the flipside you have Watson who has 10 TD’s to go with his 1 INT. It was kind of a no brainer. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson leads the nation in yards per pass attempt with an 11.87 figure. He is one of just three play¬ers nationally to average over 11 yards per pass attempt. The others are Marcus Mariota of Oregon (11.82) and Blake Sims of Alabama (11.25). While Deshaun Watson leads the nation in yards per pass attempt, he is second in the nation to Marcus Mariota of Oregon in pass¬ing efficiency. Watson has a 212.7 rating so far this year off his statistics (56-77 for 914 yards with 10 touchdowns and just one interception).
Clemson’s strength on Offense isn’t their running game, in fact they don’t have anyone who averages at least 35 yards/game, they are the epitome of RB by Committee and as such not as big of a threat. So if it’s not the RB’s then it must by the WR’s producing all the yards. The WR’s are led by SO Mike Williams who is averaging 91.2 yards/game and an amazing 24.3 yards/catch. With Dabo’s high flying uptempo spread offense expect to see the Pack secondary challenged all day long. The big key when the Tigers have the ball isn’t the secondary’s pass coverage but the ability of the Pack’s front 6 to put pressure on a true freshman QB and force him to make mistakes.
Players of Interest:
#4 QB (FR) Deshaun Watson: 56-77-1 for 914 yards (72.7%), 10 TD, 228.5 yards/game, Efficiency 212.7. Rush: 33-75 yards (Avg 2.3 per carry), 1 TD, 18.8 yards/game.
#26 RB (FR) Adam Choice: Rush: 21-88 yards (Avg 4.2 per carry), 1 TD, 29.3 yards/game. Receiving: 6-61 yards (Avg 10.2 yards/catch).
#3 WR (FR) Artavis Scott: 18-305 yards (Avg 16.9 yards/catch), 3 TD, 76.2 yards/game.
STATS OF INTEREST
I’ve been saying all season NC State’s inability to stop opposing offenses on third down and get off the field is a major problem. The debate for why it’s happening will continue but the facts are it’s a huge problem and has been prevalent in 4 out of 5 games this year.
So let’s break it down more and see if we can’t identify some areas/situations where it’s happening and compare it to Clemson’s Offense in the same situations for a deeper insight. If the ultimate goal of the defense is to prevent the opposition from scoring you can only do that in 2 ways: Force a TO or force them to punt the ball after third down. First let’s take a look at Third Down & Distance:
*Distances were determined by the Football Staff in their Final Stats, i.e. Long = 5+ yards.
As you can see it doesn’t matter how far the opposition has to go they have about a 50% chance of picking up the first down. In fact the opposition is statistically better off running to pick up the first down. Then the question becomes, “So what if they give up a first down, it doesn’t mean the opposition is going to score right?” Let’s take a look at the results of those drives:
As you can see with the first table (drives where the Pack forced a third down) half the time the drive ended in a punt. One quarter of the time the drive ended in a TD while a third of the time the opposition scored points. That is 89 points that could have been prevented if the Pack had stopped the opposition on third down. The other effect of not getting off the field is it tires out the defense and that can be a difference maker late in close games. Of the 13 drives that didn’t have a third down the opposition scored 38% of the time. That would be what I call the OLE’!!!! Defense.
Now let’s take a look at the Pack’s defense in the RedZone:
As you can see if the Pack can keep the opposition out of the RZ then they can mostly keep them from scoring a TD, only 4 TD’s were scored from outside of the RZ. Also there have been only 2 teams (ODU and FSU) to score a RZ TD. What do they have in common? Quality QB’s for one.
I’ve heard the proposal that the Pack is playing not to give up the Big Play. Let’s take a look then at how they are doing:
There’s good and bad but it’s obviously directly related to the level of the competition. I’ll keep an eye on this as the season progresses to see if there is any improvement.
Now let’s compare some of these against Clemson’s Offense. First their third down conversions:
As you can see they are above 55% on Third Down Conversion in their 2 wins and under 35% for their 2 losses.
Third Down & Distance: The further away from the line the worse they do, which stands to reason.
When Clemson’s Offense has been forced into a Third Down during a drive 25% of the time they’ll convert and score a TD and 12% of the time they’ll convert and score a FG.
Only 55% of the time Clemson reaches the RZ do they score a TD, I believe this can be linked back to their lack of a running game. As you can see they have scored 8 TD’s from outside of the RZ, big plays and attacking with the WR’s.
As expected most of their Big Plays have come from the Pass so getting pressure on Watson is critical.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Stopping Clemson on Third Down: I think I made my argument pretty clear for why already.
2. Winning the Trenches: This applies to both sides of the ball. The OL needs to protect Brissett and open up holes for the running game. The DL needs to get to Watson and apply pressure, try and force him to make mistakes.
3. Limit the Big Plays: This is probably the game where you want to play “Bend Don’t Break” defense since they aren’t as good in the RedZone. I’m not saying let them march down the field but don’t get beat deep.
This will be the best defense NC State will face all season and as such expect a lower scoring output from the Pack. The strength of Clemson’s Defense is their front seven, especially their Defensive Line anchored by Vic Beasley at DE. I see a lot of pressure being applied to Brissett and the question will be how does he respond. Clemson seems to have found their QB not just for this year but for the next four years. Last week we witnessed the 2 best QB’s in the ACC, I believe Saturday we will be witnessing the 3rd best in the conference. Watson has tremendous talent and appears to make the right decision but he is a true Freshman and they have a tendency to make mistakes, the key will be capitalizing on those mistakes. Clemson doesn’t have a dominant runner, it’s more of a committee so expect to see a lot of passing and big plays from the Tigers. I see Clemson as a 2 TD favorite minus turnovers on either side.
Final: Clemson 45, NC State 27