Two ACC powerhouses clash on Saturday night when the 10th-ranked N.C. State Wolfpack travel to take on the 5th-ranked Clemson Tigers
How to Watch:
- Date: Saturday, October 1st
- Time: 7.30 p.m. ET
- Channel: ABC
It doesn’t get more true to a primetime distinction than a top-10 duel in Death Valley with massive implications on the ACC’s Atlantic division. For No. 10 N.C. State, this is an opportunity like no other to prove that it belongs in the same conversation as college football’s storied programs that own a stake in the top 10 year after year. For No. 5 Clemson, it’s a chance for quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and company to remind everyone that the Tigers deserve their respect despite a down year by program standards in 2021.
Coming into the week off a massive win against No. 22 Wake Forest, Clemson already got an opportunity to size up against one of the ACC’s premier programs. In a 2OT thriller, the Tigers asserted their dominance through the air to overwhelm a lackluster Demon Deacons secondary. Uiagalelei had his best day of the season as a passer against Wake, going for 371 yards and five touchdowns, and looks to prove that he can put up similar numbers against more respectable defenses.
Ranking 13th nationally in total defense, N.C. State provides the Tigers with their toughest challenge yet on that front. The Wolfpack is only letting up a measly 4.25 yards per play and 261.5 yards per game, keeping many of the opponents it’s played so far at bay offensively.
Clemson’s largest concern lies with N.C. State’s run defense which, like their own, ranks top 10 in the country. Only allowing 3.27 yards per carry and 81.8 rushing yards per game, the Pack has held firm in the trenches to begin the year. The Tigers possess a similar capacity to shut down the run, giving up a stout 2.55 yards per carry and 78.5 rushing yards per game.
That doesn’t bode well for N.C. State’s newest standout running back, Demie Sumo-Karngbaye, who has earned his reps as the team’s primary option in the backfield. Clemson’s star running back, and Raleigh native with family ties to the Wolfpack, Will Shipley, will also have his hands full. Last year, N.C. State held Shipley to 36 yards on 11 carries and if it hopes to defy the odds and walk out of Death Valley 5-0, shutting him down again is a top priority.
Both teams are likely to rely on their run games and trench play this weekend with the effects of Hurricane Ian seeping into South Carolina. Inclement weather plays in Clemson’s favor, stacking up as a marginally better run defense and possessing a premier backfield threat. If rain does force the ball out of both Uiagalelei and N.C. State quarterback Devin Leary’s hands, the Pack’s ability to break the game wide open against Clemson’s worse-than-usual secondary is out of the question.
N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren believed the long-standing curse of the Wolfpack coming up just short against Clemson was broken after the 27-21 2OT victory last season. To prove that win wasn’t an isolated occurrence, the Pack has to do what no team has done since 2016; beat the Tigers on their home turf. If N.C. State wants to earn the respect that comes with being a top-10 team in the country, doing the near-impossible is a good place to start.
Players to Know:
Demie Sumo-Karngbaye – N.C. State, RB
2022 stats: 354 total yards, four touchdowns, 6.5 yards per carry, 17 yards per reception
N.C. State has found a healthy balance to its running and passing games to start the 2022 season, something it struggled with heavily a year ago. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary to that change has been Sumo-Karngbaye, who has quickly risen to stardom in the Pack’s backfield. Originally sharing looks with counterpart Jordan Houston in a true 50-50 fashion, Sumo-Karngbaye has stolen the show with a library of highlight plays and his explosive style. If the weather ends up playing as significant a factor as some believe it will, the sophomore will handle the brunt of N.C. State’s offensive load.
Payton Wilson – N.C. State, LB
2022 stats: 13 total tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss
The stats don’t jump off the page four games into the season, but make no mistake; Wilson is back. At his peak, the number of linebackers better than Wilson at tackling in the open field could be counted on one hand. Health has played spoiler to a large portion of his career but with three games in the starting lineup under his belt in 2022, Wilson’s returning to prominence. Against Texas Tech, the redshirt junior totaled 10 tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss, a statline he’ll look to replicate or even improve upon against an even tougher opponent.
DJ Uiagalelei – Clemson, QB
2022 stats: 1,033 yards, 10 touchdowns, one interception, 64.3% completion percentage
Against all odds, all naysayers and overcoming all adversity, Uiagalelei may finally be living up to his reputation coming out of high school. It’s no secret that the 2021 season had its fair share of shortcomings and disappointments from the former five star recruit in his first full year as the starter, but Uiagalelei has made massive strides as a junior. Gashing then No. 21 Wake Forest for 371 yards and five touchdowns a week ago, Uiagalelei willed his team to a hard-fought victory and looks to do the same with College GameDay in town.
Bryan Bresee – Clemson, DT
2022 stats: Eight total tackles, 0.5 sacks
If inclement weather does turn this game into a war of attrition, Bresee stacks up as the on-field general to command Clemson’s defense in the trenches. Returning to the team in time for last week’s showdown in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Bresee’s transition into the lineup was slow and steady. In a matchup likely to be defined by the battle up front, his ability at defensive tackle that’s almost certain to have him playing on Sundays will come out in full form.
Trent Pennix: N.C. State, TE: Wrist injury, out Saturday
Jordan Houston: N.C. State, RB: Head injury, questionable Saturday
Xavier Thomas: Clemson, DB: Foot injury, doubtful Saturday
Justin Foster: Clemson, DE: Undisclosed injury, questionable Saturday