Matt Connolly

Connolly’s prediction: NC State has best skill Clemson has seen. Can Tigers slow it down?

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney previews matchup with NC State

Tigers will play in Raleigh on Saturday
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Tigers will play in Raleigh on Saturday

Clemson has faced a few dynamic offenses already this season, most notably Louisville’s, which features Heisman winner Lamar Jackson.

But N.C. State has the experience and talent to test the Tigers in ways other teams have not.

The Wolfpack start a graduate senior at quarterback in Ryan Finley, who is one of the most efficient passers in the nation.

Finley is averaging 273 passing yards per game and has thrown 12 touchdowns to only one interception. He is a big reason why N.C. State is averaging 33 points per game, which ranks third in the ACC.

“I think his track record speaks for itself,” Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “It’s not like they’re running the triple option. He’s smart, accurate, great poise, patient and talented.”

Finley also benefits from having plenty of talent around him.

Jaylen Samuels is a versatile senior who leads the Wolfpack in touchdown rushes with seven and receptions with 56.

Junior running back Nyheim Hines is averaging 82 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry. He has topped the 100-yard mark in three of his past four games.

And sophomore wide receiver Kelvin Harmon is averaging 81 receiving yards per game and could be on his way to having a 1,000-yard year.

When you add it all up to go along with a veteran offensive line, N.C. State has an offense that is one of the best in the ACC.

N.C. State lines Samuels up at running back, tight end and receiver and finds different ways to get him involved in the offense.

“(Samuels) is one of the best players that has come through this conference. Just an all-around, instinctual and versatile football player,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “They’re very creative with him. They’re not coming out of the game without him touching the ball.”

N.C. State should be able to score some points against Clemson’s defense and its banged up secondary, but will it be enough? Likely not.

The Wolfpack are allowing 264 passing yards per game and will face the best group of receivers they have seen all year on Saturday.

With Kelly Bryant healthy and Deon Cain emerging, Clemson should be able to escape with a win and keep its playoff hopes alive.

Prediction: Clemson 31, N.C. State 28

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