N.C. State is 5-0 for the first time since 2002 and only the second time in 25 years. So what’s next for the Wolfpack?
Well, a little time off and then the two most difficult games on the schedule. N.C. State (5-0, 2-0 ACC) gets its regularly scheduled week off as the State Fair kicks off across the street on Thursday. Coach Dave Doeren usually gives the players an extra day, or two, off during the open date on the schedule.
Given the Wolfpack just had an unscheduled week off (Sept. 15), because of Hurricane Florence, Doeren might tweak the off-week routine to get a head start on the preparation for Clemson.
N.C. State, which moved up to No. 20 in the AP poll, goes to Clemson on Oct. 20 (3:30 p.m. kickoff) with first-place in the Atlantic Division on the line. The Tigers, 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the ACC, are coming off of their most dominant performance of the season. They beat Wake Forest 63-3 on the road this past Saturday.
The Tigers, ranked No. 4 in the latest AP poll, have won the past three division and conference titles. They have won seven straight home games against N.C. State, six straight overall and 13 of the past 14 meetings.
N.C. State nearly won at Clemson in 2016 but missed a 33-yard field goal at the end of regulation and lost 24-17 in overtime. The Tigers went on to win the national title that season. The Wolfpack had Clemson on the ropes again last year but a late comeback was derailed by a procedural penalty and lost 38-31.
The winner of this year’s game will have the inside track on the division title. N.C. State is the only ranked team left on Clemson’s regular-season schedule and Clemson’s the only ranked team on N.C. State’s schedule.
Clemson is the first of four ACC road games that N.C. State has to play after opening the season with four of five at home. The Wolfpack goes to Syracuse, which gave Clemson fits on Sept. 29 (a 27-23 Clemson win), on Oct. 27.
Jeff Sagarin’s computer ratings combine all 255 Division I teams (both I-A and I-AA levels) and Clemson (3) and Syracuse (48) are the only top 50 teams left on N.C. State’s schedule. The final three opponents — Louisville (91), North Carolina (98) and East Carolina (126) — all rank 90 or worse.
But Doeren has had his issues with Louisville (1-3), ECU (0-2) and the two ACC home games left on the schedule — FSU (1-4) and Wake Forest (3-2).