No. 3 Clemson is in the ACC Atlantic driver's seat. A win two weeks ago against Louisville, coupled with Florida State's two league losses, means Clemson can almost certainly lose one conference game and still take a tiebreaker to represent the Atlantic at the league title game in Orlando. A win there, and Clemson would more than likely make the Playoff.
So, the Tigers are in the right position. They don't have any absolute do-or-die games for a while. But a misstep against NC State on Saturday would actually leave the Wolfpack in first place in the division, and Clemson would effectively fall two games behind because of the same head-to-head tiebreaker rule. That probably won't happen, and Clemson would probably catch up even if it did. But it's for the best that Clemson avoids the entire situation.
NC State enters off a hurricane-game victory against woeful Notre Dame, while Clemson won last week against Boston College. Someone's about to get a first conference loss.
How to watch, stream and listen
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. The broadcasters are Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Todd McShay.
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Clemson opened as a 17-point favorite.
Make friends: Get to SB Nation's team blog chats for this game at Backing the Pack (for NC State fans) and Shakin The Southland (for Clemson fans).
Three big things to know
1. Clemson's defense is just about as good as it gets. The Tigers are giving up 15 points per game, and the defense might even be more talented than that. They give up almost no big plays in the passing game, and it's incredibly difficult to find efficiency against Clemson, either through the air or on the ground. NC State can score a bit (34 points per game, even after a 10-point showing in a storm last week), but it'll be hard to run up enough points to beat Clemson.
2. NC State's got a pretty good defense to face down Deshaun Watson, too. The Wolfpack are ranked in the top 20 in Defensive S&P+ and points per game, and they've gotten there by making it hard to be efficient in both the running and passing game. It's tough to find room to run against the Wolfpack's front, and it's not easy to find big plays anywhere against this defense.
3. Clemson's 55-28-1 all-time against NC State, but that doesn't even begin to speak to how dominant the Tigers have been in the recent past. Clemson's won 11 of 12 games since 2004, and NC State hasn't won in Death Valley since 2002. The Tigers have the Pack's number in a big way.