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No. 3 Clemson opens ACC play at NC State Thursday
By: Nick Bracken - StatFox
Published: 9/19/2013  at  4:19:00 AM
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Kickoff: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Line: Clemson -13.5, Total: 66

Two unbeaten ACC foes open their conference season on Thursday night with hopes of starting the season 3-0 when No. 3 Clemson visits North Carolina State.

The Tigers have proven themselves worthy of their high ranking with a thrilling victory over Georgia in week one. NC State is still looking for its first quality win and it will have plenty of quality to deal with on the other sideline on Thursday. The Wolfpack are hoping to have a better showing defensively than they did last year against Clemson when they allowed 62 points and 754 yards. Even with the poor defensive performance, the Wolfpack only lost by 14 (62-48) and were able to cover the 15-point spread. State has actually covered their past two meetings against the Tigers, but Clemson is 7-2 ATS (6-3 SU) in Raleigh since 1995. However, NC State is also 9-5 ATS (13-2 SU) at home over the past three seasons. The Pack may have a history of being successful at home, but September has not been their favorite month going 1-7 ATS over the past three seasons and 26-38 ATS in the season's first month since 1993. The Tigers have had terrific success against conference foes in the past three years, going 14-3 SU & 13-4 ATS. Clemson also hasn't had a problem covering on the road going 6-3 ATS in its past nine games. As double-digit favorites, the orange and purple aren't likely to lose outright, going 7-0 SU as a favorite of 10.5 to 21 points in the past three seasons and a dominating 37-10 SU in this scenario since 1993.

Can Clemson cover the big spread on the road Thursday night? For the answer, connect to College Football Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 regular season and bowl season. The experts continue to flourish in their college football Best Bets this season with a combined 55% ATS mark (30-25), highlighted by StatFox Brian's 64% ATS (7-4) record. StatFox Gary was a perfect 3-0 ATS in his Best Bets last week, and StatFox Scott is at 53% ATS (8-7) in college football Best Bets this season.

Anything less than a National Championship will be a letdown for the super talented Clemson Tigers this season. They are led by Heisman hopeful QB Tajh Boyd who had the best game of his career in last year's meeting against the Wolfpack, piling up 426 passing yards, 103 rushing yards and scoring a conference record eight touchdowns, with five coming through the air and three on the ground. Boyd did lose one of his favorite targets to the NFL, DeAndre Hopkins, but still has one of the best pass catchers in college football with WR Sammy Watkins, who lit up the NC State secondary for 11 catches, 110 yards and a touchdown last season. Watkins has 146 yards on nine catches this year and is a threat to break the game open at any time. The Tigers would love to get their running attack going early Thursday to open up the passing game. Clemson's ground game is led by senior RB Roderick McDowell who has gained 175 yards on just 30 carries for the pass-happy Tigers.

The Wolfpack are coming off a lackluster win in which they barely edged out 23-point underdog Richmond by a 23-21 score. NC State has had quarterback issues with Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas, throwing three interceptions and no touchdowns in the first two games of this young season. Thomas also hasn't had too much help from the running game where the two leading rushers -- Matt Dayes and Tony Creecy -- are averaging just 4.1 yards a carry. State has relied on premier quarterbacks over the years with Mike Glennon and Russell Wilson but now they must hope the junior Thomas can fill these big shoes.

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