Backing the Pack joins us this week to talk about NC State's roller coaster season, how Clemson can slow down Mike Glennon, and Tom O'Brien's future at NC State.
STS: NC State has had a Jekyll and Hyde season. Lose to Tennessee, beat FSU, dominated by UVA, crush Wake Forest. Clemson fans are used to these types of season, but it doesn't make it any easier to explain. Can you try?
BTB: The Pack lost to Tennessee primarily because of turnovers, poor play in the secondary which led to big pass plays for the Vols, and a lack of pressure on Tyler Bray. So there were at least clear reasons for that defeat...the Virginia game, on the other hand, was totally inexplicable from a performance standpoint. We were never in that game, and the only thing I can guess is that the guys were still deflated from losing to UNC the previous week.
In each case they were able to bounce back--they took care of business in the non-conference portion of the season following Tennessee, and as you mentioned, eventually beat Florida State. And they responded to the UVA pounding with that dominant effort against the Deacs on Saturday. Which shows what kind of team this can be when they have their stuff together. But when they don't, well, Virginia or Tennessee or Miami happens. At least the implosions are spectacular.
STS: The strength of this NC State defense was supposed to be the secondary. Is that still the case? And do you think they can slow down a prolific Clemson passing attack?
BTB: It is the case when David Amerson isn't trying to do too much. Early in the year he seemed to lose sight of the fundamentals and just play as though he could bait every opposing quarterback into a throw he could make a play on. This had disastrous consequences against Tennessee and especially Miami. When he's doing what he is supposed to be doing, this group is very good.
Earl Wolff has had a great year at safety, and Dontae Johnson gives the team another corner with size like Amerson. Johnson did a fantastic job limiting Mike Camapanaro on Saturday.
STS: Mike Glennon is more than likely giving Brent Venables sleepless nights, as Clemson has struggled stopping the pass all year. What's the key to stopping the NC State passing game?
BTB: The passing game has been inconsistent thanks to a lot of inexperience at wide receiver; Glennon also has had little support from the ground game, which has made life more difficult for him. Either he's making throws or this offense is going nowhere, pretty much.
I would be physical with Tobias Palmer and Bryan Underwood, who are speedy but undersized, and of course, any pressure Clemson puts on Glennon will help since he isn't going to be eluding many tackles.
STS: Tom O'Brien is in the process of churning out another average season in Raleigh. He's 39-34 overall at NC State and 21-25 in conference play. Does he coninue to keep his job as long as he gets the team to bowl games?
BTB: Most likely. NC State should win at least seven games this year--eight with a bowl win--and that would be the third year in a row the program has won at least eight games. There is mounting frustration with Tom O'Brien but it's difficult to justify a move at a place like NC State following a run like that.
STS: After last year's debacle, I find it hard to feel overly confident about this game. How do you think this game plays out? Can you put a percentage on NC State's chance of victory?
We've had some chances in Death Valley over the last decade but haven't been able to break through, and I don't expect that to change this weekend. Frankly I'd be mildly surprised if NC State managed to stay within 10 points, but I also have no clue how this State team is going to play from week to week.