The Clemson Tigers are set for a Saturday afternoon date with the North Carolina State Wolfpack (ESPN, 3:30 p.m.).
Most online sportsbooks are dealing Clemson as 10-point road favorites with a total of 47.5, but there are still a few books straying from the pack to -9.5 and 48.
This will be N.C. State’s first conference game. Meanwhile, Clemson is looking for a 2-0 start in the ACC.
Finding Their Way
No. 9 Clemson (2-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) has not enjoyed the smoothest transition into the D.J. Uiagalelei era. Scoring has been a struggle for the Tigers — their 49 points against South Carolina State notwithstanding. Nobody will bat an eye at being smothered by Georgia, who’s up to No. 2 in the nation, but Clemson backers can’t feel great about squeaking by Georgia Tech 14-8 last week.
There’s too much talent present in this Clemson program to believe they’re going to struggle offensively for an extended period. It’s easy to under-appreciate the challenge of implementing new pieces — and it’s not just about a new quarterback. Travis Etienne, Amari Rodgers, and Cornell Powell accounted for 346 touches last season. That’s a lot of experience and talent to replace.
Dabo Swinney doesn’t seem phased by the growing pains:
“It’s just the nature of who we are right now. We’ve got a true sophomore right tackle, we’ve got a new center. We’ve got new backs, we’ve got a new quarterback. We’ve got a true freshman at left guard, so it’s just learning. Just gaining experience as we go.”
Freshman running back Will Shipley, a five-star recruit, is one of the players expected to fill some of that void. He had somewhat of a breakout performance against the Ramblin’ Wreck last week. The final numbers weren’t staggering (94 total yards), but he handled a career-high 23 touches and scored a pair of touchdowns.
Uiagalelei will continue leaning on receivers Justyn Ross and Joseph Ngata, who lead the Tigers in receptions (14) and yards (186), respectively.
Close But No Cigar
The Wolfpack have not won a matchup with the Tigers under head coach Dave Doeren, who took over in 2012. However, they played them within seven in 2016 and 2017.
N.C. State failed its first of the season test against a Power Five opponent, falling 24-10 at Mississippi State as 1.5-point favorites two weeks ago.
Sophomore quarterback Devin Leary has played reasonably well this season. He’s coming off his first turnover-free performance in a 45-7 win and cover against Furman. Furman isn’t the ninth-ranked team in the country though, so Leary’s work is cut out for him.
Lead back Zonovan Knight can help his quarterback with another strong performance on the ground. He’s averaging 8.5 yards per carry and rushed for 100-plus yards in both of N.C. State’s victories. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Knight and Co. struggled to run the ball in their loss to the Bulldogs.
Betting Thoughts and Analysis
Saturday’s trip to Raleigh will be Clemson’s first true road game of the season. Nobody will confuse Carter-Finley Stadium for Clemson’s “Death Valley”, but the Pack faithful will certainly be amped for an upset bid. N.C. State’s last two wins against the Tigers came at home.
Market-making book Circa opened Clemson -12 on Sunday and installed the Tigers as -345 favorites on the moneyline. The oddsmakers have since moved those numbers to -10 and -355. Most shops are in line with Clemson -10, but FanDuel Sportsbook — confident in its numbers — invites favorite money at -9.5.
Circa’s moneyline price is the best Clemson backers will find at the time of this writing. Those looking to wager on an upset can find the Pack at +320 at FanDuel.
The Tigers will get their feet under them offensively, but for now, they’re relying on a stifling defense to win games. N.C. State is no defensive juggernaut, but they’re off to a good start in that department as well.
The Wolfpack and Tigers rank third and fourth, respectively, in the ACC in total defense. Most shops have set the total at 47.5, but those expecting a slugfest can find a little value on the UNDER at DraftKings Sportsbook (48).