If there’s a team in the ACC that has brought out the most recent contempt with the Clemson Tigers, it’s their next opponent.
Despite winning six straight games in the series, NC State has pushed Clemson to the brink in the last two matchups, with Clemson prevailing thanks to key Special Teams plays going in their favor.
Last year’s game in Raleigh saw the infamous towel-stealing by then-Wolfpack defensive end Bradley Chubb and NC State Head Coach Dave Doeren accusing the Tigers of trying to gain an edge with an alleged sideline laptop.
While the two sides have remained civil since then, Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney believes the team led by pro-ready quarterback Ryan Finley proves to be the Tigers’ biggest barrier to accomplishing their goals:
Swinney on NC State
Swinney on NC State Rivalry
If there’s one aspect of Clemson’s team exceeding above all others, it’s the efficiency of the running game. The Tigers come into the week averaging 280 rushing yards per game, the fourth highest mark in the FBS.
Clemson has done most of that work on first down, averaging 8.3 yards per carry, which would be the highest first-down rushing average of any team in the last 10 years if the season ended today.
Tigers’ running back Travis Etienne has earned the lion’s share of the workload, averaging 126.8 yards per game, fifth best in the FBS.
Swinney believes the talent of his players has shown through with their newfound rushing prowess:
Swinney on the Clemson Run Game
Clemson still would like to get off to faster starts overall, as the team has found themselves in adverse situations because of certain inconsistencies.
Part of that disconnect attributes itself to the team adapting to a new quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, but Swinney believes Lawrence’s demeanor will ultimately provide his team the ability to shift to an even higher gear:
Swinney on Desire for Offensive Efficiency & Lawrence’s Demeanor
One positive on defense for the Tigers has been the ability to grow quality depth and keep their marquee players fresh for the stretch run.
Nowhere is this more evident than at defensive line, where Xavier Thomas, Justin Foster, Nyles Pinckney, Albert Huggins and Jordan Williams have created a reserve unit that’s as deep as any position on the team, outside of wide receiver:
Swinney on D-Line Depth
On the injury front, Swinney said RB Tavien Feaster is back at practice after dealing with a shoulder injury and is “ready to roll”. Swinney also said they may try and use the four-game redshirt rule to gain another year back with WR Cornell Powell, who was recently cleared to return to practice after dealing with an academic issue.
Clemson plays NC State at 3:30 Saturday on ESPN.