CRAWFORD | After Louisville-Clemson gauntlet, some comparisons from N.C. State
After playing the ACC's top two College Football Playoff contenders back to back, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren and his players offered some comparisons of the teams.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Before entering this discussion, let us remember at the outset, we have the ultimate comparison between the No. 4-ranked Clemson football team and No. 7-ranked Louisville: A 42-36 Clemson victory in Death Valley on Oct. 1. That will be the tie-breaker in the event of a two-way first-place tie in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
But North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren and his players have another perspective on the two teams. The Wolfpack played them on the road in consecutive weeks.
They came as close as humanly possible to a win as a team can get in a 24-17 overtime loss at Clemson on Oct. 15. They actually made the game-winning field goal, but only a fraction of a second after Clemson coach Dabo Swinney managed to get a timeout to ice the kicker. Then they lost in the first overtime.
A week later, who knows what kind of emotional toll the loss at Clemson took, but N.C. State trailed 44-0 at halftime in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium before falling 54-13.
Doeren was asked to compare the teams Saturday, and tried to maintain some perspective, despite what he'd experienced in the game that had just ended in Louisville.
"I think (Louisville) has much better depth at tailback," Doeren said, a week after his defense knocked Clemson's Wayne Gallman out of their matchup in South Carolina. "They rely on that. I think they have a better running game. Whether it's the tailback or the quarterback running. Their quarterback runs probably more often than Clemson's. Defensively, they do have a little bit more variety, I think, in their coverage packages. Clemson will just jump into man-to-man and give you different looks that way. There's a lot more fire zone type defenses that they're playing with that can confuse the quarterback. But they're both really good football teams."
N.C. State cornerback Jack Tocho said Lamar Jackson was the biggest difference between the two teams. "Just his ability to scramble and keep the play alive. being a DB covering for more than, like, seven seconds, that's a big task. . . . There's a real difference between game film and real speed. He's a tremendous athlete. He did have that quick twitch that we expected, but it just showed in the first half that we weren't really prepared for it."
Clemson, clearly, is better positioned for a College Football Playoff berth. If it can win at Florida State next week, it would be hard to see how the Tigers don't make the ACC Championship game. But Louisville can take heart in this -- this week a year ago, the No. 7-ranked team in the nation was Michigan State. And the Spartans made the four-team playoff.
Who knows how much things like "style points" matter. It can't hurt to blow out a team that pushed Clemson into overtime the week before. But it won't ever matter more than the head-to-head meeting.
The ACC's national profile keeps rising. The New York Times published a story Saturday headlined, "ACC Chips Away at SEC's Dominance." In it, ACC commissioner John Swofford told the paper, "We’re really good at the top of the conference right now with Clemson, Louisville and Florida State. Miami and Virginia Tech are close to being back where they had been. So I talk about our football the way I talk about our basketball. It is pretty brutal competitively within the league itself, and that’s what is important from a fan standpoint and a reputation standpoint.”
Given that, Doeren says both teams should be viewed as serious contenders, and he thinks both have a chance to make the playoff.
"Potentially, yeah," he said. "Obviously, it's up to those teams to win out to get that kind of conversation. But they are both worthy if they do that. They both play tough enough schedules."
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