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Might as well be another close one

I wouldn't wish it on Clemson fans, but I can't imagine this game being a laugher for either team. Although if Jay Davis wants to look like Peyton Manning for a night and throw like 6 TDs, I think I can live with that.

What happened last year?
My eyes! NC State turned it over six times (including an INT returned for a TD) and committed ten penalties, two of which negated touchdown passes. Despite all of that, the Wolfpack had the ball 1st-and-10 at the Clemson 11-yard-line with under a minute left in the game, their fate in their hands. Jay Davis couldn't find anyone in the endzone, so the Tigers held on for a 26-20 win.

Let's not do that again.
Both teams are a bit different this year, which is to say that neither teams sucks quite as much at moving the football. Charlie Whitehurst has looked a lot more like his pre-2004 self, meaning he's the best passer in the ACC--kind of by default, kind of because of talent.

Even with Whitehurst's regained competence, the Tigers offense isn't great: they're 57th in passing offense and 76th in rushing (73rd in total offense).

While the running game doesn't look too scary on paper, the Tigers do possess a couple of running backs who are averaging better than 4 YPC. James Davis has received the bulk of the carries (72 car, 290 yds, 2 TD), but Reggie Merriweather has been a little more efficient (54-277-3).

At receiver, I think Curtis Baham is the guy with whom State needs to be careful. Baham averages fewer than three receptions per game, but is averaging 22.3 yards-per-catch and has caught three of Whitehurst's four TD passes. Baham looks to be the big play guy (I haven't seen enough of the Tigers this year to say for sure).

Statistically speaking, the strength of NC State's defense is its secondary. Performances against Calvin Johnson will be stricken from the record since Johnson is clearly not of this planet. The Pack ranks 4th in pass efficiency defense, although we haven't exactly been facing some dynamic passing offenses over the first month of the season. The Pack's run defense has been somewhat disappointing, particularly against North Carolina (Barrington Edwards ran for 129 on 25 carries; Tarheels rush offense ranks 106th). So while the Tigers don't have a great rushing attack, that hardly means they won't have a good night on Thursday.

NC State's offense has been a little more effective than Clemson's through the air, but that may be due to circumstances more than anything else. State's trailed late in three of four games. Still, Jay Davis deserves credit for averagining 271 YPG even though he continues to look shaky and scare the crap out of us on a regular basis.

Similarly to Georgia Tech, Clemson's secondary has been pretty blah. Their run defense isn't any better, but I still like their chances against our running game. We're averaging less than 100 yards rushing per game, which is good enough to put us a few slots ahead on UNC in the national rankings. It isn't Toney Baker's fault.

By now it's evident that the OL is going to have issues all season (again); I'd hoped that Amato's recruiting efforts in this area would start to pay off by now, but that hasn't been the case. Hopefully we'll see (if nothing else) improved depth in 2006 and beyond thanks to the big uglies Amato has been bringing in in the last couple of classes.

This game features one of the bumblin'-est, fumblin'-est, kick-me-in-the-groin stupid teams in the country versus one of the more prudent and secure teams in the country. It must be nice to play the Wolfpack, knowing that they're absolutely definitely going to out-mistake you. Never hurts to have an edge going into a game.

I hope it doesn't come down to a field goal, because Jad Dean--football uniform modeling issues aside--is money.

I picked the bad guys in my rundown for Golden Tornado and everything worked out great, so I'll stick with that angle:

Tigers: 24
State: 21