Posted by Chip Patterson
CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: They can take care of the ball. The Tigers' offensive potency is well-documented, but their recklessness almost cost them a chance at their first ACC Championship since 1991. In the last two games - 31-17 loss to Georgia Tech and 31-28 win over Wake Forest - the Tigers have turned the ball over seven times. The Tigers can score in a hurry, but games like the 18-point comeback at Maryland will be much tougher with a banged up Sammy Watkins (shoulder) and shifting along the offensive line. Clemson has an advantage over the Wolfpack on paper, but must keep their focus and take care of the ball to reverse the downward trends of the recent weeks.
NC STATE WILL WIN IF: The Wolfpack back seven play their best game of the year. Led by the nation's interception leader David Amerson, the NC State back seven have the opportunity to step up and keep bowl hopes alive with an upset. The unit played especially well in wins over Virginia and North Carolina, demonstrating great gap discipline and forcing tough throws that resulted in interceptions. The defense played well enough to win on the road against Boston College last week, but got no help from the other side of the ball. With Clemson's offensive firepower, the first concern will be frustrating and shutting down Tajh Boyd. If you let Boyd get comfortable, like Wake Forest did late in the game last Saturday, he will eventually figure out ways to beat you.
X-FACTOR: Clemson's focus. With the ACC Atlantic Division locked up, the Tigers could potentially lose this game and still accomplish many of the same achievable goals on the season. A loss on Saturday would still give them the opportunity to win the ACC Championship and potentially the Orange Bowl. Still several spots away in the BCS standings, it is unlikely that Clemson's best-case scenario is anything other than the Orange Bowl. But Dabo Swinney knows his young Tigers team needs to take every game as an opportunity to get better, especially if they want to win a potential rematch with Virginia Tech in the title game come December.
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