Free College Football Picks: NC State at Clemson Odds and Predictions
N.C. State Wolfpack at Clemson Tigers, Saturday Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m. ET
If you had looked at this game before the season started, it wouldn't have taken too much imagination to guess that there would be an unbeaten team in it. Pretty much everyone had Clemson unblemished at this point. And if you were paying attention, it wasn't that hard to figure that the other team would be unbeaten, too. N.C. State came into the season with a solid offense, a solid defense, and a schedule up to this point that was hardly challenging. They had a truly pathetic nonconference slate of James Madison, Georgia State and Marshall. And their first two conference games were against Virginia and Boston College - decent enough teams in both cases, but hardly elite squads. The Wolfpack has been favored in all five of their games, with the smallest advantage being a significant 5.5 points, so by getting here without a loss they have only done what they were supposed to do. So, this sets up a showdown between the last two unbeaten teams in the conference, with a likely Atlantic Division title the prize for the victor.
Oddsmakers don't suggest it's a close game, but then oddsmakers aren't keen on drama. Is it closer than they would suggest?
N.C. State at Clemson Betting Storylines
The Tigers are unbeaten and mostly on track, but it certainly hasn't been the dominant season that the team was expected to have. They beat Texas A&M by just two points and were very lucky for that result. And they narrowly escaped against Syracuse, winning by four with a touchdown in the last minute. The Tigers were favored by 12 and 24 in those games, and in both cases they showed a whole lot of vulnerability and mortality. All is not bad, of course. They have a very elite running game, ranking fourth in yards per game, led by Travis Etienne, who has a staggering average of 9.2 yards per carry over 83 carries. Those are the kind of numbers that will get a guy invited to New York if he sustains them. But the QB play has been a little rocky. The team made the right long-term move by naming Trevor Lawrence the starting QB. He's a freakish talent who will star going forward, but he's also a new, young starter. Him starting now is an investment in the next couple of years, but it chased Kelly Bryant out of town and removed the team's safety net in the short term. Lawrence has been far from lousy, but he has not risen up against the strongest opponents and is at the helm of a passing attack that ranks just 53rd nationally. A lack of passing dominance is nothing new - they ranked 61st last year, which is a big reason why Bryant isn't in the job anymore - but it is still a concern for this team going forward. A lack of balance offensively leads to increased opportunities for struggles, as we have seen so far.
There is nothing better in football games than strength-against-strength showdowns, and we have a couple of good ones here. First, while Clemson's rushing attack is terrifying, they are up against a defense that has been very strong against ground attacks all year. N.C. State is ranked 13th nationally in yards per game allowed and are much better against the run than the pass. The Wolfpack obviously haven't seen a run attack like this, but they will have to stand up to it to give them a chance. And when the Wolfpack have the ball they are very aerial focused - they rank sixth nationally in passing and an ugly 95th in rushing yards. If they are going to score, it will come from the arm of Ryan Finley. And while Clemson is a solid run defense, they are elite against the pass. They force teams onto the ground, but the Wolfpack are far from comfortable there. These two matchups will define the game.
N.C. State at Clemson Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Clemson favored by 17 points, and that has since moved to 18 points . More than 70 percent of bets have been placed on the underdogs, so the line movement is a clear sign that sharp money has hit the favorites early. The total opened at 55.5 and has climbed slightly to 56.
The Wolfpack are just 1-3-1 ATS in their last five conference games but are 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 road games and 4-1 ATS in their last five games against teams with winning records. They are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games against Clemson overall and 5-1 ATS in their last six in this series as visitors. Clemson is 4-1 ATS in their last five conference games but just -4 ATS in their last five against teams with winning records and 1-4-1 ATS in their last six games in October.
N.C. State at Clemson Predictions and Picks
This number almost begs you to take the underdog. And that is what I will likely do. Clemson's mental game hasn't been consistent, and they are playing a much more experienced quarterback and a well-coached team. It won't be an aggressive bet here, though, because the significant sharp action on Clemson makes me very tentative. Regardless of the bet, though, we should see Clemson as the remaining unbeaten after this one.
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