Game time: 3:30 p.m. ET, September 25, 2021
Venue: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
Where to watch: ESPN
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Clemson -9.5; O/U 47; Clemson -400, NC State +300
BetMGM: Clemson -10; O/U 46.5; Clemson -385, NC State +310
Caesars: Clemson -10; O/U 47; Clemson -380, NC State +300
No. 9 Clemson: 2-1 (1-0 ACC)
North Carolina State: 2-1
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Clemson - NC State preview and analysis
Clemson: won 14-8 vs. Georgia Tech on Sept. 18
NC State: won 45-7 vs. Furman on Sept. 18
If you had the Clemson Tigers looking this underwhelming through three games, stop talking because you’re a liar.
Sure, maybe there was supposed to be a dropoff after Trevor Lawrence left for the NFL, but D.J. Uiagalelei has proven to be a sharper decline on offense through three games than we could’ve imagined.
But the Tigers will look to get back on track Saturday in a road contest against the North Carolina State Wolfpack in Raleigh.
When we say Clemson has been underwhelming, putting up 14 points against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is a good way to start. When you’re browsing scores on Saturday and scream out loud “does that say 7-3 Clemson in the fourth quarter?” It's bound to be a bad time.
Uiagalelei is certainly not the No. 1 pick of this year’s NFL Draft and it’s time to lower the expectations based on this. Outside of a 49-3 win over South Carolina State 10 days ago, it’s been an awful start for head coach Dabo Swinney’s group. If you’re a Clemson fan, you would’ve hoped that loss to the Georgia Bulldogs was an outlier.
Instead, we’re talking of Uiagalelei being held to 126 yards on 18-of-25 passing at home, and nearly allowing Georgia Tech to pull off the upset of the season thanks to a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter. It’s not often you see Clemson’s offense outmatched by another group, but the Tigers had 284 yards of total offense while Georgia Tech had 298.
Any other Clemson team, that’s a dominant day for the defense, and it was by way of holding GT to no touchdowns. But this defense is good enough to get Clemson deep into another potential run for the College Football Playoff, even if the passing game is abysmal right now.
Uiagalelei is going on the road for the first time, which points to some sort of life in this matchup for the home team. NC State is coming off a 45-7 victory over Furman, which was a solid rebound after losing by two touchdowns to the Mississippi State Bulldogs the week prior. Wolfpack QB Devin Leary threw for 259 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions to push head coach Dave Doeren’s team to a strong 2-1 start.
While Clemson’s defense will travel, this isn’t Death Valley and the allure of last season isn’t any more exciting right now.
If there was time to think the underdog was a solid play in a potential top-10 upset, this would be the time. But until a team can crack the code of Clemson’s defense, it wouldn’t be wise to bet against them even if Uiagalelei is not playing well. As tempting as that NC State number is on the money line, Clemson should win this game in a narrow cover. Clemson by 14
Clemson is 26-4 SU in its last 30, but in that span is only 16-14 against the spread.
NC State is 10-5 ATS in its last 15 home games, but is 2-8 ATS following a win at home.
Players to watch
Clemson: Linebacker James Skalski is the leader for this fearsome Clemson defense and showed it in the goal-line stand against Georgia Tech, making the game-deciding tackle on fourth down. He had nine tackles and a pass deflection on Saturday.
NC State: The Wolfpack have a balanced passing attack at receiver, but the touchdowns have come at a minimum from big-game players Devin Carter and Porter Rooks. The two have combined for 13 receptions and 250 yards this season.
Passing: D.J. Uiagalelei -- 475 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Will Shipley -- 175 yards, 4 TD
Receiving: Joseph Ngata -- 186 yards
Defense: Bryan Bresee -- 1.5 sacks
Passing: Devin Leary -- 794 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Zonovan Knight -- 298 yards, 2 TD
Receiving: Emeka Emezie -- 186 yards
Defense: Drake Thomas -- 25 tackles
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