As it stands, this may end up being just as or more important than the ACC championship Game mainly because both of these teams are considered better than Miami (or Virginia Tech). Clemson got back on track last week, while NC State was run through by Notre Dame. The Tigers opened up as -7 point road favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
This Game was one of Clemson’s tougher challenges from the 2016 season with overtime being needed. It was a defensive contest that Deshaun Watson ended up bailing out his team in the end with 378 passing yards and all three touchdowns. It could be a similar Game, much like Clemson’s 24-10 win over Georgia Tech last week. Both defenses should control this Game, although NC State’s is a step below, having given up at least 20 points in Four of the last five Games. The Wolfpack have some big guys on the line, but the secondary has been gashed by better quarterbacks and is allowing 264 passing yards per Game.
The reason NC State can make this competitive is because Kelly Bryant isn’t Deshaun Watson. He’s failed to surpass 236 passing yards in all but one Game this season. Most of Clemson’s offense has come on the ground between Travis Etienne (489 yards), Tavien Feaster (424) and Bryant (460). If the Tigers can’t find running room, similar to last year’s Game, then this should be a close contest. While the Wolfpack are at home, they haven’t shown an increased level of play there as opposed to on the road so that will be something to keep in mind.
On the other side, Clemson has one of the best defenses in the country again and just held Georgia Tech’s usually dominant triple-option to 10 points. The Tigers have mostly struggled against mobile quarterbacks that can also throw the ball decent and that’s why Syracuse was able to upset them. Unfortunately for NC State, that’s not what Ryan Finley does as a traditional drop-back quarterback.
Finley has great numbers (15 touchdowns) and threw his first pick of the season last week, but expecting him to open up this Game against this defense is a stretch. The Wolfpack need to establish the run, which is what they did in last year’s matchup. Leading running back Nyheim Hines left the Notre Dame Game injured, so his status should be monitored with Reggie Gallaspy the guy that stepped up in his place. Without a consistent running Game against this defense, it’s almost impossible to Scoreon.
The Tigers are on the road and that could be reason enough to expect a lower scoring, close contest, with the home dog a decent side to bet. The Tigers are 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine ACC Games, but are 5-1-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. The Wolfpack are 4-1 ATS in their last five Conference Games, yet 1-5 ATS in their last six home Games. NC State is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings, while Clemson is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings at NC State.
Our Pick – Clemson -7