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Clemson at NC State Preview: Q&A with Backing the Pack

To help us preview the Tigers' trap game in Raleigh this Saturday, we gathered some insight from Will Thompson, an NC State graduate and analyst for SB Nation's Backing the Pack.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

With Florida State looming, the Tigers will play another "one game season" on Halloween. They travel to Raleigh, the site of their last loss to an unranked team, (the win streak stands at 35) seeking to avoid a letdown after their best-ever performance in an ACC game.

To shed some light on what to expect from the Wolfpack, Will Thompson from SB Nation's NC State site, Backing the Pack, was kind enough to join us. Please check him out on twitter and share any questions you may have in the comment section below.

STS: Shakin the Southland
BTP: Backing the Pack

STS: NC State played an especially easy non-conference schedule, which allowed them to sprint out to 4-0 and all but assure a bowl berth. Do you prefer this type of scheduling, or would you rather see the Wolfpack play teams like Tennessee or East Carolina, as they have in years past?

BTP: Honestly, I'm pretty tired of talking about State's schedule. Was it easy? Yes. Nobody's denying that. But these kinds of things are handled years in advance, some of which was done during the prior athletic administration. I certainly don't prefer this type of scheduling, but it is what it is - I'd definitely rather State play a school like Tennessee any day of the week.

STS: We had quite the debate last week about where Deshaun Watson and Brad Kaaya rank as far as ACC QBs. Jacoby Brissett seemingly belongs in the conversation, too. Where would you rank him, and why? Tell us a little about his strengths and weaknesses.

BTP: He's certainly in the upper echelon of the ACC as far as quarterbacks go. I love his ability to run the option when needed, and he's been very good at picking up first downs in short yardage situations. His biggest asset is that he almost never makes mistakes - he's only thrown one pick all year. Where I'd like to see him improve is throwing the ball deep down field. He was much better in the game against Wake Forest throwing the deep ball, but there's still a lot of room for improvement there.

STS: NC State is averaging 5.0 YPC (Clemson is at 4.9 YPC) and has about a 3-to-2 rush-to-pass ratio. Even without Shadrach Thornton (dismissed), they seem dedicated to the running game. Will they do a better job than Miami at establishing the run to open up the passing game? Despite having strong QB play, is this offense built around the running game?

BTP: Yes, State's offense is one that wants to establish the run first. Although Shadrach Thornton is no longer with the team, Matt Dayes has been fantastic this season, and there hasn't really been any loss in efficiency there. State will look to run the ball effectively early and often, but obviously that's going to be easier said than done against Clemson. If Dayes can get going early, that should make it easier on Brissett to throw the ball with some play action.

STS: NC State has only finished in the top 15 of the AP Poll three times in school history. What is a realistic goal for where Dave Doeren can build this program?

BTP: I think that still remains to be seen. Obviously, State fans want the program to be able to consistently compete for the Atlantic Division title, and have a chance to get into the ACC Title game, but there's still a lot of work to do to get State to that point. Given where the program was after the end of the Tom O'Brien era, they've made some significant strides in the right direction (particularly winning a bowl last year). State, as a program, certainly has the resources to compete for an Atlantic Division title, but as to when that happens? Not entirely sure.

STS: I won't ask for a score prediction, but what are your general expectations for Saturday? Can you give us someone we may not know that will impress or concern us as Clemson fans?

BTP: Well, hopefully, the game will be closer than the Hurricanes fared. I'd like to at least make Dabo take the Tigers back to the locker room at the half. Many around here wanted this to be a night game just to add to the Halloween atmosphere, but hey, 3:30 is better than a noon start. This will probably be the rowdiest crowd in Raleigh until the UNC game, and Clemson should make a point to try to take the wind out of those sails early.

One name to watch out for is Jaylen Samuels (TE). He can line up just about anywhere on the field for the Pack, and once he gets into open space, he's tremendously difficult to stop. On the defensive side, Mike Rose (DE) and Darian Roseboro (DE) have been playing extremely well recently, particularly in putting pressure on the quarterback, so I hope they'll continue that trend in this game.

So who wins? I think State will keep it closer than people think, but ultimately Watson will prove to be the difference maker. Clemson wins, 31-24.

STS: We thank Will for joining us for this Q&A. If you'd like to see our answers to his questions, you can jump over to Backing the Pack.