There are some very real historical trends that favor No. 5 Clemson in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. showdown with No. 10 NC State.
The Tigers have won 10 straight games, the longest in the FBS winning streak. Clemson has won 36 straight home games, also the longest streak in the nation. A win on Saturday would tie Florida State for the most home winning streak in ACC history.
The Tigers have beaten NC State eight times in the Wolfpack’s last eight trips to Memorial Stadium. Clemson is 21-7 against NC State when both teams are ranked in the AP Top 25.
And then there are stats like this, shared by Tim Bourret, retired Clemson and Hall of Fame sports news director and current commentator for the Clemson Athletic Network broadcast team: The Tigers play them 27th game in the top 10. The Wolfpacks play in their FIRST game in the top 10.
Trends are one thing. The lack of trend on one side of the historical equation is another. Does this lack of experience in this kind of big game matter to NC State? Is that an overstated stat for Clemson?
It’s one of those things you have to choose for yourself, but sometimes the game seems to play out beyond the Xs and O’s. The way 18-21 year old men and working coaches with them handling pressure, adversity and big game situations also matters.
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Clemson is used to being in the pressure cooker, even though not all of those players have been in a lot of big games. It’s part of the culture that Dabo Swinney has developed. Since 2014, or the college football playoff era, the Tigers are 11-6 against top 10 opponents.
Meanwhile, NC State is 5-18 against the top 25 teams since Dave Doeren took over in 2013. One of those wins includes last year’s 27-21 win over No. 1 of the time. 9 Clemson at Carter-Finley Stadium.
That seems like a lot to overcome for the Wolfpack, but it also depends on how you view the trends. The counterpoint to all of this is that the rankings don’t really matter. After all, polls are subjective and not an accurate indicator of overall team strength. It’s what voters think of a team or justification for another ranking.
So there are a lot of flaws to point out in using stats like the popper above. But rankings matter in terms of perception, and the perception is that Clemson is used to big games and used to doing well at home against highly ranked teams.
Will this continue or did NC State’s shock victory last year turn the tide in both this series and ACC Atlantic supremacy?
That’s why they play the game.
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