One of the marquee games on a sneaky good Week 5 college football schedule brings us a clash in the ACC Atlantic as No. 10 NC State battles No. 5 Clemson on Saturday in a game that not only carries conference title implications but could affect the College Football Playoff race as well. The Tigers topped Wake Forest 51-45 in a double-overtime thriller in Week 4, while the Wolfpack are coming off of an emphatic 41-10 home win over UConn.
Both teams are 4-0 on the year, but this will be the first conference game for the Wolfpack while the Tigers are already 2-0 in ACC play. The winner of this game will establish itself as the favorite in the division, while the loser will be fighting an uphill battle for the remainder of the season.
Here's a preview of the game with picks straight-up and against the spread.
Clemson vs. NC State: Need to know
Is this the real DJU?: Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei lit up the stat sheet last week with 371 yards and five passing touchdowns, which gave fans hope that he is finally rounding into the form that he showed in 2020 when he stepped in for an injured Trevor Lawrence. Was that performance a sign of things to come, or was it just a product of a porous Demon Deacons pass defense? That's the million-dollar question, and this game will go a long way in determining the answer.
The Wolfpack defense has given up just 179.8 passing yards per game and is sixth nationally in opponent passer rating (94.72) while picking off an ACC-best seven passes. This game will be the referendum on "DJU." If he doesn't succeed, it could be Cade Klubnik time.
Leary's big spotlight: NC State quarterback Devin Leary has floated under the radar in national discussions, but that will change if he lights up a Clemson defense that, despite struggling against Wake Forest, still brings the heat with the best of the best in college football. Surprisingly, Leary isn't one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC from a statistical standpoint, averaging only 222.5 yards per game and 7.1 yards per attempt. That is a bit deceiving, however, with only 13 fourth-quarter passes thrown. He might need to air it a little more if this is going to become a four-quarter battle.
A big-time matchup in the trenches: Clemson's defensive front -- led by stars Bryan Bresee, K.J. Henry and Tyler Davis -- is one of the most talented in the game, and it'll be going up against a solid Wolfpack offensive line. The Wolfpack are giving up 4.75 tackles for loss per game (fourth in the ACC) and 1.25 sacks per game (second in the ACC). Wolfpack veteran center Grant Gibson was named ACC co-Offensive Lineman of the Week after recording 61 snaps and three pancake blocks against UConn, but he and his teammates will face their toughest test yet on Saturday.
How to watch Clemson vs. NC State live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 1 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Memorial Stadium -- Clemson, South Carolina
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Clemson vs. NC State prediction, picks
I'll take Clemson straight up, but give me NC State grabbing points on the road. Clemson will win the battle at the line of scrimmage and force a couple of mistakes from Leary that will prevent this from becoming a shootout. Tigers running back Will Shipley will take over late and prevent Uiagalelei from having to be a difference-maker for the second straight week. This one will come down to the final drive or two, and the Tigers will hang on to keep their CFP chances alive. Prediction: NC State (+6.5)
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