Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2011. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2012.
As part of our 2012 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.
Team: Clemson Tigers
Opponent: NC State
Last Year: Loss, 37-13 at NC State
This Year: November 17, at Clemson
Through the first 10 games of 2011, the Clemson Tigers mostly looked like a runaway freight train on the offensive end. The three-headed monster of Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Andre Ellington had only been stifled once, and the team had already locked up its trip to the ACC Championship Game when they rolled into Raleigh on November 19. Obviously, they left supremely disappointed.
Unlike the Tigers, NC State had an awful lot to lose in that game, needing to win out in order to qualify for the postseason. The blueprint was simple: blitz Boyd constantly, and pressure him out of the pocket, and into rushed decisions. And it worked beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Clemson, then the seventh-ranked team in the country, and one of the best offenses in the nation, mustered just 34 rushing yards and 13 points. They turned the ball over four times to the Wolfpack’s ball-hawking group of defenders, while also getting lit up in the secondary by QB Mike Glennon. As suspect as the Clemson D had been before this matchup, the sham was over afterward, as they’d get blown out by archrival South Carolina the next weekend. No need to go into the terrible details of the Orange Bowl. We all know what happened.
This year, the Tigers are once again entertaining BCS dreams, but the Wolfpack may also be eying up their own shot at a conference title. For all we know, the November 17 showdown could decide the Atlantic division (yes, it’s possible), and Clemson would love nothing more than to exact some revenge on the team that started their late tailspin in 2011. Will NC State bring the same pressure, and can Clemson’s revamped O-line provide a better response? With Glennon likely firing on all cylinders again, will new Tigers D-coordinator Brent Venables pay dividends and put a stop to the air show exacted upon them (specifically by State)? As of right now, I’m siding with Clemson, but a lot can change come November.
Previously: Boston College