CLEMSON, S.C. -- When Clemson kicks off its Atlantic Coast Conference season on Thursday in a nationally televised game on ESPN, the Tigers will do so with plenty of confidence -- they're unbeaten (2-0), ranked No. 3 in the nation and are set up for a potential run at a national championship.
But the Tigers also have a memory, and this week their minds have been quick to recall the 37-13 shellacking they absorbed against an unranked N.C. State squad in Raleigh, N.C., just two short years ago.
"That was about as miserable of a game as I've ever been through -- they kicked our butt," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "We weren't ready. We executed a plan to lose. We had four turnovers, and you can't win that way. Hopefully we grew through that experience and will put our best foot forward this time."
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd had a career day in a shootout victory against N.C. State last season at Clemson, accounting for eight touchdowns and 529 yards, but Swinney isn't convinced that the Wolfpack -- which is 2-0 under first-year coach Dave Doeren -- will surrender yardage so readily this time around.
"I think N.C. State is going to prove to be one of the better teams in the conference," Swinney said. "Every single week is going to be a challenge, so we can't overlook anybody."
The biggest question facing Clemson this week is how the Tigers will respond to losing receiver Charone Peake for the rest of the season courtesy of a torn ACL. Peake was the team's second-leading receiver this season with eight catches for 84 yards and a touchdown before suffering his injury in practice in a simple non-contact drill on Sept. 10.
"This is a big loss," Swinney said. "He was having a great year and was going to have a great year. We are thin at receiver with just six scholarship players now."
Junior Adam Humphries -- Peake's former high school teammate -- has moved into the starting role, but the Tigers will need to get more production from Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant as well as freshmen Mike Williams and T.J. Green.
Still, most teams would be happy to trade places with the Tigers, who after facing the Wolfpack will take on Wake Forest, Syracuse and Boston College -- three teams with a combined 4-5 record that includes three wins against FCS teams -- before hosting Florida State in mid-October.
"We're in a good position, but we're just kind of getting into that first curve," Swinney said. "Everybody is jockeying, and that's what makes college football fun. Every game is like a playoff game.
"Just look at the history of college football -- it's hard to go undefeated. That's our goal, but it's hard to do and not many teams pull it off."