The North Carolina State Wolfpack head into this week's matchup against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons attempting to do something that their program has not done in 14 years. October 6, 2001 was the last time that the Wolfpack headed into Winston-Salem, and emerged victorious. N.C. State is currently a 10-point favorite over the Demon Deacons. Is this the year that the streak ends? Who is this North Carolina State team? Below are my initial impressions.
- They played a very weak non-conference schedule (Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion, and South Alabama). To be fair, their won all four in convincing fashion.
- The team, however, did experience a significant drop off once they entered conference play, and left observes wondering who they are. Is it the team that averaged 46 points per game during its first four contests or is it the team that averaged 13 points over its only two ACC games?
- Jacoby Brissett is one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the country. He has completed 69% of his passes on the year, and has 8 touchdowns to just 1 interception. Against ACC opponents, however, he is completing just over 50% of his passes. He also does not take many deep shots, and State is 110th nationally in passing explosiveness.Still, he's a very capable passer.
- Their loss of Shadrach Thornton was huge. He averaged 5.5 yards/rush last season, and averaged 6.77 yards/rush in two games this season. That leaves us asking how good Matthew Dayes truly is. He scored 10 touchdowns during the first four games, and also averaged more than 100 yards/game. Over the past two games, however, he has failed to exceed 70 yards in either game. It's worth pointing out that last year against Wake Forest, he averaged more than 6 yards/carry and had two touchdowns.
- Their offensive line appears to be much better at run blocking than pass blocking. They have a bottom 20 adjusted sack rate, but are top 20 in executing on short yardage situations. Look for them to target tight end Jaylen Samuels. He leads the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
- Their defensive line is excellent at stopping short yardage situations. They also have one of the better "Havoc" rates in the country. This team had four sacks against Louisville, so they can do it against legitimate competition. They will challenge Wake's offensive line.
- Their rush defense is very hit-or-miss. They are top 15 nationally at getting opponents "off schedule" when they rush, but they are bottom 15 nationally at stopping explosiveness. Meaning, when opponents do break runs against N.C. State, they go a long way. This is the sign of a very aggressive defense. State has recruited high caliber athletes the past several classes, so it makes sense that they would run a more aggressive scheme.
- Their pass defense is very average. They also only have three interceptions on the year.