A few parting thoughts as NC State's first major road test nears...
1.) Does NC State's consistent production on the ground come to a halt this week?
Through five games, the Pack is averaging 231 rushing yards per game and 5.9 per carry--in three of those games, the team averaged at least 5.9 yards per rush. In 2013, State managed to crack 4.0 YPC in just six games, never once averaging more than five yards per rush in a game. It's safe to say the ground attack is better in Dave Doeren's second year. But does anybody really trust it yet? I mean, trust it to grind out productive plays week after week regardless of opponent?
The performance against FSU by State's running backs (Thornton mainly) was a positive sign, but Clemson's front is probably better than FSU's at this point, and the Tigers have been on one heck of a streak, giving up a grand total of 104 rushing yards over their last three games.
I feel like the odds of a season-low rushing total for State are pretty good.
2.) If that scenario happens to play out, does a lack of success running the ball have to be a primary factor in the final outcome?
Why, no, no it does not! This is the luxury that comes with having a quarterback who knows how to properly do quarterback stuff. Now, having the rushing game stifled is by no means ideal, but it's something I think this offense can overcome while still putting up a decent number on the scoreboard. Whether or not that number is enough to win is gonna be up to the defense.
The very large CAUTION ALERT ALERT sign here is No. 3 Vic Beasley, who already has six sacks--that ranks fourth among FBS players. If State is made one-dimensional, it simply invites Beasley to pin his ears back more often and attempt to make himself a nightmare. Again, not ideal.
Beasley needs one sack to tie the Clemson record for career sacks, and he'll get it. That there is my shoe-in of the week; you take that right straight on to the bank and exchange it for legal tender.
It's fine if he just gets the one. If he's all up in our situation the whole afternoon, however, the Pack's offense is going to fall behind schedule too often, leaving it incapable of matching scores with Clemson.
3.) Will Clemson's offensive line problems continue?
Clemson already knows all about overcoming a crummy running game since it's what the Tigers have had to do all year, bludgeoning of an inept South Carolina State team aside. But just as this sort of issue doesn't have to be a dealbreaker for State, the same holds true for the Tigers. They scored 50 on UNC despite averaging a hair over two yards per carry, and they pieced together plenty of good drives in Tallahassee with similarly paltry output on the ground.
State's defensive front has a lot to prove yet, and if the Pack is going to pull off this road upset, that front is going to have to make Clemson's offensive line look like a wreck. That would put a lot more pressure on Deshaun Watson, and while that isn't guaranteed to solve anything (again, see the Clemson-UNC game), it certainly improves State's odds of success.