RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State can finally think about Clemson again.
The sixth-ranked Tigers visit the 20th-ranked Wolfpack on Saturday in a game that could all but decide the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division race. It’ll come more than a year since the Wolfpack squandered a huge road win against the eventual national champions by missing a 33-yard field goal at the end of regulation, which several players said has stayed with them since.
“This game has definitely been marked on my calendar since last year and the last couple of seconds went out,” senior running back Jaylen Samuels said.
N.C. State (6-2, 4-0 ACC, No. 20 CFP) sits alone atop the division standings. Beating the Tigers (7-1, 5-1, No. 4 CFP) would mean the Wolfpack need to win only one of the last three games to secure the program’s first trip to the ACC championship game.
The revenge factor comes into play, too, with several Wolfpack playersusing that word this week. And N.C. State is coming off a 35-14 loss at Notre Dame that ended a six-game winning streak.
“As soon as you hit this week, you understand what’s at stake,” offensive lineman Tony Adams said. “We understand what happened to us last year. So we definitely want to take advantage of anything we can this week to definitely have that slight edge and get revenge on these guys.”
Clemson is aware of that factor.
“After last year when we played them,” Tigers defensive end Austin Bryant said, “they feel like they should’ve won that game.”
While the Tigers are chasing a return to the ACC title game, they also are driving to make the College Football Playoff for a third straight season. They’re can solidify their standing by winning a third straight trip to N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium.
“It’s hard because we’re basically all we’ve got in that hostile environment with everybody against us,” Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant said.