|Clemson-NC State Preview|
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney on Tuesday lamented the fact his team didn't run the ball as effectively as he would have liked last year against North Carolina State.
"That's an area we need to try to improve in," Swinney said.
Ah, the luxury of being picky.
What he failed to mention was that Clemson beat N.C. State 41-7 en route to its second national title in three years.
"We've had some great games against them," Swinney said.
That might be true, but the Tigers will be a heavy favorite in Saturday night's nationally televised game at N.C. State's Carter-Finley Stadium. Clemson, ranked fifth in the season's first College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night, has won 24 consecutive games -- the nation's longest active streak among FBS teams -- and is off to a 9-0 start this season as it chases its fifth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division title.
"The division trophy is not very big," Swinney said. "But if you win that one, you get a chance to win a bigger one."
The Tigers, 6-0 in the ACC, also are looking to win 10 or more games for a school-record ninth consecutive season. N.C. State (4-4, 1-3) is struggling after losing two straight and three of its last four.
"They've had a lot of injuries, but they're not going to change what they do," Swinney said.
The Wolfpack, who are coming off decisive defeats at Boston College and Wake Forest, are heavy underdogs. Clemson has won the last seven meetings and 14 of the last 15.
"This week the challenge is obviously a great one when you're playing a team that's done what Clemson has done," N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. "I can go through their statistics, but you all know where they are. They do a really good job.
"They have experience, they are well-coached, they have staff continuity; all those things. Their kids know how to win. I also know anything can happen on a Saturday. That's why you put the ball down and play. We have nothing to lose in this football game. Just go play as hard as we can. Anything can happen, and that has to be our mindset."
Clemson is led by sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who has thrown three touchdown passes in each of the last four games, and junior running back Travis Etienne, who has two 200-yard rushing performances games this season. Etienne has run for 654 yards in the Tigers' last four games, averaging more than 11 yards per carry.
N.C. State, meanwhile, has struggled to find consistency, but appears to be sticking with redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Leary.
"That (Wake Forest) game will be a huge piece for him to grow from," Doeren said. "He'll get another team this week that wants to blitz every snap, so another opportunity."
--Field Level Media