Clemson and NC State share plenty in common this season, the 4-3 records aside: both made a change at offensive coordinator in the offseason, both moved on to a new starting quarterback, and both have watched the hope for improvement from those changes slowly prove unfounded.
Plenty of this is relatable as well:
Clemson passing— ️♈️ (@ADavidHaleJoint) October 23, 2023
Yards/Rec: 10.83 (109th)
Air yards/att: 6.61 (123rd)
YAC/Rec: 5.53 (80th)
Open Target/Dropback: 59.3 (66th)
Drops: 14 (85th)
Indeed, Clemson’s skill position talent ain’t what it used to be, and quarterback Cade Klubnik has been solid but not spectacular. Dabo Swinney’s unwillingness to use the transfer portal to add weapons definitely has not helped.
But the Tigers still come in from a far healthier place than the Wolfpack at this point, boasting a strong +1.35 yards per play differential, compared to NC State’s -0.5. Clemson has been up against a difficult schedule but at different points held control of games against FSU and Miami, both of which the Tigers would eventually lose. Backbreaking mistakes have been a hindrance all year, and their field goal kickers have been wildly unreliable, but the Tigers have been good on a down-to-down basis overall.
Klubnik has done well to limit mistakes through the air, with only three picks on the season, and he’s got an excellent running back tandem in Will Shipley and Phil Mafah. If they aren’t getting much done through the air, the Tigers at least have a potential home run hitter in Shipley.
They can also lean on an elite defense that is going to keep them in every game they play—Clemson’s D ranks ninth in SP+ and has been outstanding across the board. FBS opponents are averaging 5.5 yards per pass attempt on a modest 58.3 completion percentage, while throwing for only six TDs. Everyone not named Jordan Travis has struggled to throw the ball against Clemson.
Duke and Miami both managed to find success running the ball against Clemson, putting up 6.6 and 5.6 YPC numbers, respectively, but the rest of Clemson’s opponents have been held under 3.0 YPC.
NC State needs to see the version of Clemson that shoots itself in the foot repeatedly, which certainly is not out of the question. Throw in the shaky kicking and there are a lot of ways Clemson can keep an opponent in a game, as it has repeatedly demonstrated. The Wolfpack can’t exactly count on this but will definitely need some help from the Tigers in order to pull off the upset on Saturday.