For the first time in program history, NC State is playing in a top-10 matchup.

The No. 10 Wolfpack, into the top 10 for the first time since 2002, will head to No. 5 Clemson with a whole lot on the line Saturday. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be there, as NC State looks to get its first victory at Clemson since that outstanding 2002 season.

The winner will have a huge advantage in the ACC Atlantic Division, and also will have the glimmer of a playoff hope still alive. For Clemson, the Tigers are trying to re-establish themselves as the ACC’s top dog. For NC State, the Wolfpack is trying to show that all the hype and expectations this season were justified and that this team is for real.

Apart from the football, eyes also are on the weather situation heading into the weekend. As Hurricane Ian made its way to the United States, the weather will be a topic of discussion. The Pack won a 2016 hurricane game against Notre Dame, but everyone will be hoping conditions don’t resemble that one Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Regardless of the weather, it’s maybe the biggest game NC State has played. It’s certainly the biggest game the Pack has had under coach Dave Doeren. The time to prove it is here for NC State.

Here’s what to expect:

The Tigers

Clemson had a down year in 2021. Well, by Clemson standards. The Tigers went 10-3, won the Cheez-It Bowl and had a top-10 defense nationally. But they didn’t win the ACC, or even the Atlantic Division. Still, not too shabby for a down year.

But now in 2022, it’s looking early like Clemson is Clemson again. The Tigers are 4-0 and coming off a thrilling double-overtime victory at Wake Forest. They won their first 3 games of the season handily, as the Tigers are dominating the defensive front as always while putting up some strong scoring numbers on the other side of the ball.

A big part of the story for Clemson has been the ascension of DJ Uiagalelei. The quarterback received a lot of criticism last year, but he has looked much improved this year. His completion percentage is up from 55.6% to 64.2%. His passer rating is up from 108.7 to 155.6. He has 10 touchdowns and just 1 interception, and he was exceptional against Wake Forest.

His receivers are playing well, too. And so is running back Will Shipley, who is averaging 6.8 yards per carry and has 7 touchdowns already. For Shipley, there will be some extra juice against NC State. Shipley grew up in North Carolina, and he has some strong family ties to NC State. He was recruited heavily by the Pack but ultimately chose Clemson.

On the defensive side of the ball, Clemson’s front is elite. The Tigers are allowing just 78.5 yards per game on the ground, and they are tied for 2nd in the ACC in tackles for loss. With Trenton Simpson, Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy, Tyler Davis and others, it’s a really impressive group.

The secondary though has been much less impressive. Clemson gave up 337 yards and 6 touchdowns through the air against Wake Forest, and the Tigers rank 104th nationally in passing defense. There have been a lot of injuries in the secondary, and it’s really unknown at this point who will play.

The Wolfpack

NC State handled its business in nonconference play. The Pack is 4-0. The defense dominated throughout, and is ranked 13th in the country in yards per game allowed.

On offense, it has been a little bit up and down. Quarterback Devin Leary didn’t have his best stuff against East Carolina and Texas Tech, but he was fantastic against UConn this past week. His receivers played much better against the Huskies, as Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter both had big games. That’s huge heading into this matchup.

The Pack hasn’t run the ball exceptionally well. It’s averaging 157 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry. Jordan Houston had a great opening half against Texas Tech, but then he got injured and missed the UConn game. Demie Sumo-Karngbaye has been a nice addition to the mix, but he too suffered an injury last weekend. Both are expected to be available against Clemson, though.

On the defensive side of the ball, NC State simply has dominated. The Pack is allowing just 261.5 yards per game and 4.25 yards per play, numbers that are especially impressive considering 1 of NC State’s 4 games came against the No. 3 passing offense in the country in Texas Tech.

The defensive front, led by Drake Thomas and Payton Wilson, is completely shutting down the run. The secondary has been unbelievable, as pretty much everyone playing at defensive back has been good. The one big injury concern for NC State comes with nickel Tyler Baker-Williams, who is among the Pack’s best defensive players and has been considered “day-to-day” since he got hurt against Texas Tech.


This should be an awesome game that the ACC can show what the conference has to offer.

These teams are really good, and they’re not all that different. The defenses are really, really good, but the offenses have enough talent and explosiveness to really make things exciting.

The weather obviously will play a big factor, and who knows which team that will benefit. While rain sometimes can be the neutralizer of talent – advantage NC State – it also can benefit the team with the better rushing attack – advantage Clemson.

Clemson is laying a touchdown right now, as the total also has taken a plunge with the rain likely. Shipley and the Clemson rushing attack, as well as Uiagalelei’s ability to carry the ball, will be the difference.

Clemson 28, NC State 24