Doeren: NC State 'not intimidated' by stakes against Clemson

With eight shared or outright division titles in the last 11 years, Clemson has long been the cream of the ACC’s Atlantic crop.

But NC State will try to take a step toward crashing the party when the teams renew their series Saturday.

And there could be more than just conference implications at stake.

The teams are meeting for the first time as top-10 opponents. In fact, while Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) has gotten used to great expectations with six College Football Playoff appearances in the last seven years,

this week was N.C. State’s first time to crack The Associated Press top 10 since 2002.

It’s the first time the teams have ever met as top-10 opponents, making it the highest combined ranking matchup in series history.

The winner would not only jump in the driver’s seat in the race for the Atlantic Division title but also put itself squarely in the early CFP discussion.

But asked this week if there could be an intimidation factor for a team that’s not used to playing in these types of games, NC State coach Dave Doeren quickly shot down that notion to local reporters.

“We’re not intimidated. We’re excited,” Doeren said, according to The Wolfpacker. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity.

You’ve got two good teams playing for a lot, and whether you guys think we’re good or not, we’re excited to go down there and compete with a team we have a lot of respect for.”

While the Textile Bowl has been dominated by Clemson historically (59-29-1 record in 89 all-time meetings), Doeren’s program has closed the competitive gap as of late.

NC State (4-0, 0-0) played the Tigers to one possession in 2016 and 2017.

After the teams took a break from their series in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wolfpack ended their eight-game losing streak to Clemson last season with a double-overtime win at Carter-Finley Stadium.

This year’s matchup shifts to Memorial Stadium, where it will take center stage in front of a national television audience Saturday night.

The Tigers haven’t lost on their home turf since 2016. Their 36-game home winning streak is the longest in the sport.

But Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he expects another tightly contested matchup with an NC State team that comes in with a scoring offense and scoring defense that both rank in the top 45 nationally.

“Phillips Rivers was the quarterback (at NC State) when I came in here in ‘03, and as far back as I can remember, they’ve always been tough,” Swinney said.

“We’ve had a few games here or there that got out of hand if you will, but most of them have been hard-fought games. I’m sure this will be the same.”

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