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Clemson is playing elite defense, but there are a few cracks

NC State is well-positioned to exploit the weaknesses the Tigers do have.

Clemson v Wake Forest Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Clemson has generally played exceptional defense in 2018, which is not surprising given all of the NFL-caliber talent that the Tigers have on that side, particularly up front. Clemson’s defense ranks 5th in S&P+ and its line ranks second nationally in havoc rate—it is highly disruptive, and that puts a lot of opposing offenses behind schedule.

Still, the Tigers have had issues in the secondary at times, and they rank just 70th in efficiency and 68th in big-play prevention on passing plays. They thrive anyway because opposing quarterbacks are completing less than half of their pass attempts.

NC State is uniquely suited for success on pass plays, what with its deep receiving corps, outstanding pass protection, and of course, because it has Ryan Finley. The degree to which the Wolfpack can successfully exploit its advantages here might just end up determining the outcome of the game.

Running the ball with any sort of consistency will be difficult, though that hasn’t prevented NC State from establishing an elite passing game this season. Clemson will be the stiffest challenge the Pack has had to deal with all year, but it’s not unreasonable to think that the passing game will be up to it.

The question is whether or not that’ll be enough to score the points necessary to pull off this upset in Death Valley. I’m looking forward to finding out.