No. 9 Clemson will be on the road Saturday to rekindle its Atlantic Division series against ACC foe NC State. The two teams didn't play in 2020 when the league went to a 15-team, one division format with Notre Dame added to the mix. All of those changes, of course, were a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Week 4, however, a rivalry that spans decades between the regional rivals will be reignited.
The Tigers enter the game having dropped in the AP Top 25 despite winning against Georgia Tech in Week 3, though the result of a grinding 14-8 win did stand in stark comparison to the four-touchdown betting line in the matchup. Clemson remains the overwhelming favorite to win the ACC, but an experienced NC State team is looking to pounce if the Atlantic Division is suddenly up for grabs. The Wolfpack were picked second in the division in the preseason media poll and though the loss at Mississippi State is a blemish it has otherwise looked like a team capable of meeting those expectations.
Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has completed just 59.3%of his passes with one touchdown and two interceptions through three games, but it hasn't been all disappointment on that side of the ball thanks to freshman Will Shipley and his four combined rushing touchdowns in the team's two wins. Dabo Swinney insists that Clemson doesn't "stink" and Saturday provides a worthy opponent in a tough spot to prove that's not the case.
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Clemson at NC State: Need to know
Replacing Tyler Davis: Clemson starting defensive tackle Tyler Davis underwent surgery this week to repair a torn bicep, leaving him sidelined for an estimated 7-8 weeks. If there was any position group on the entire defense where Clemson is best prepared to handle a loss, it's along the defensive line where more than a handful of players have starting experience. But it's still a setback to lose the junior who has been an impact player when healthy since he arrived as a freshman. His replacement in the starting lineup will be Ruke Orhorhoro, a redshirt sophomore who's finally healthy after suffering an injury in the opener against Wake Forest last season. He's not one of the many Tigers with starting experience, and it will be interesting to see how Brent Venables deploys the group along the front going up against a physical NC State offensive line.
Clemson offense still trying to find a rhythm: The struggles for Clemson's offense in its two games against FBS opponents, scoring just three points against Georgia and 17 against Georgia Tech, have become the biggest storyline around the Tigers' recent drop in the rankings. The fact that the Tigers have one of the best defenses in the country is widely accepted, but this offense ranks outside the top 100 nationally in yards per play and its shouldering the blame for the team falling short of preseason expectations. We saw some personnel changes this week with veteran running back Lyn-J Dixon leaving the program and freshman Will Shipley emerging as the team's starter at that position, so maybe that will help spark a change in the Tigers' offensive outcomes.
Textile Bowl rivalry: For more than three decades this annual meeting between original ACC members was dubbed the "Textile Bowl," but the recent series history is arguably more interesting especially considering Clemson's apparent vulnerabilities. The Tigers have won eight straight and 15 of the last 16, interestingly enough in the year that Dabo Swinney first won the ACC in 2011. But three of the last four Clemson wins in Raleigh have come down to the fourth quarter, and the Wolfpack pushed the Tigers to overtime in Death Valley in 2016.
How to watch Clemson at NC State live
Date: Saturday, Sept. 25 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Carter-Finley Stadium -- Raleigh, North Carolina
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Clemson at NC State prediction, picks
Carter-Finley Stadium can be a great home field advantage for the Wolfpack and I think they'll have an impact on yet another edition of this series that will be undecided into the fourth quarter. Clemson's defense will keep it low scoring, and low scoring favors the underdogs. Prediction: NC State (+10)
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