Clemson's visit to North Carolina State on Saturday will go a long way toward deciding the ACC Atlantic Division champion and trip to the league championship game.A win by fourth-ranked Clemson (7-1, 5-1 ACC) would mean the Tigers only needed to defeat Florida State next week to clinch a third consecutive berth in the conference title game with only non-conference opponents The Citadel and South Carolina finishing up the schedule. Of course, should the Tigers win out they've got an excellent chance at landing a third-straight appearance in the four-team College Football Playoff.
The 20th-ranked Wolfpack (6-2, 4-0) has lost only to non-conference foes South Carolina in the season-opener (dropping a 35-28 decision despite outgaining the Gamecocks 504 yards to 246) and last week at Notre Dame when N.C. State's usually stout defense allowed a season-high 318 rushing yards. A win over Clemson would leave the Wolfpack needing just one victory over its final three games (at Boston College and Wake Forest and home to North Carolina) to clinch its first berth in the ACC Championship.
"This is where you want to be," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "It's November and still in the hunt for the division and that's our next goal. We know we're going to have to play very, very well to have a chance to continue chasing that goal."
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said, "All big games come down to one, two or three plays so it's going to be a game where those plays have to go our way. It's our job as coaches to get them there and then their job to finish them, and I'm looking forward to watching it happen."
The Wolfpack had a chance to make a huge play for the win last season at Clemson, but missed a 33-yard field goal as time expired in regulation before the Tigers went on to win in overtime. It was a sloppy outing throughout for Clemson, which turned the ball over four times (including the lone interception returned for touchdown of Deshaun Watson's career) and moved inside State's 5-yard line on three occasions without scoring a point.
With both teams featuring talented and experienced lines on both offense and defense, Swinney expects the outcome to be decided in the trenches.
"That's what championship football is all about. When you're in the mix for some type of championship, you're usually pretty good in the trenches and that's the case for both of these teams. It's definitely going to be a great battle with vets on vets and strength on strength."
This article is written by Eric Boynton from Spartanburg Herald-Journal and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.