The ACC Atlantic Division is Clemson’s to lose.
The No. 4 Tigers took a big step towards the division title with a 38-31 win over No. 20 North Carolina State on Saturday. The Wolfpack entered the game in first place but lost after an illegal motion penalty nullified a potential game-tying scenario.
NC State was facing fourth down inside Clemson’s 30 and converted a first down to the 4-yard-line with approximately 30 seconds left. But the play was called back because not everyone was set at the snap. Watch the bottom of the screen.
On the ensuing 4th and 15, NC State quarterback Ryan Finley was picked off by Clemson’s Tim Kidd-Glass to seal the win for the Tigers.
After the game, NC State coach Dave Doeren said he wished the officiating was better. He also questioned why Clemson allegedly had a laptop on its sideline. We haven’t seen any photo or video evidence to corroborate his claim.
— Marilyn Payne (@marilyn_payne) November 4, 2017
The win means Clemson and NC State are tied atop the divison. But the Tigers now have the head-to-head tiebreaker, which is essentially a one-game lead. All Clemson has to do is beat a reeling Florida State team next week to clinch a 7-1 ACC record and a berth in the ACC Championship Game.
NC State led 21-17 at halftime but Clemson scored 14-straight points to take a 31-21 lead in the second half. The Tigers were buoyed by a run game that amassed 224 yards and three touchdowns on just 35 carries. Tavien Feaster’s 89-yard run is what gave Clemson a 10-point lead that NC State was never able to overcome.
We also have to give Clemson coach Dabo Swinney some props for being bold in the second half. Leading 31-28, the Tigers faced a 4th and 5 at the NC State 22 with 8:16 left. Instead of trusting a kicking game that’s been shaky at best in 2017, Swinney’s team went for the first down.
And wide receiver Hunter Renfrow — of course — caught the pass for a first down. The 16-yard completion set up a one-yard run by quarterback Kelly Bryant that gave Clemson its winning margin.
Clemson’s win also gives the Tigers a massive cushion in the College Football Playoff race. At 7-1 entering the week, Clemson was tentatively in the Playoff. But with one-loss teams Ohio State and Penn State losing Saturday afternoon, the field of direct competitors to Clemson’s playoff spot thinned considerably.
That’s huge news. And increases the likelihood that we could see the Tigers face Alabama for a third-straight year in the playoffs. No one is going to complain about that, right?
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