BSD: Coming off a disappointing loss at ECU and two beatdowns of lesser opponents, what is the general consensus of NC State fans' expectations for the season as a whole?
BTP: I'd be lying if I told you State fans weren't worried. That ECU loss really caused expectations to plummet, and truth be told it feels even worse for me now after seeing ECU get waxed by Virginia Tech. This game against Wake is vitally important if the Pack is going to have any chance of making a bowl. While the upcoming stretch doesn't appear to be nearly as tough as it did a few weeks ago, Notre Dame is still Notre Dame, and having to play on the road against Clemson and Louisville in consecutive weeks is about as brutal of a one-two punch as any team in the country has to deal with. Getting to six wins at this point would be a minor miracle.
BSD: In the Dave Doeren era it seems that State has generally beaten the teams they are expected to beat (ECU notwithstanding) but have lacked program changing wins. How's the Doeren approval rating these days in Raleigh?
BTP: It's definitely not high. The ECU game was the tipping point for a lot of fans that were on the fence about Doeren. And you are correct, generally speaking Doeren has beaten the teams he has supposed to beat, and has yet to pull off a major upset. From a glass half full standpoint he's certainly got plenty of opportunities left this season that can really turn things around, but we'll see if that happens. Getting a few of these wins would go a long way in turning the fan base around, that's for sure.
BSD: What's the scouting report on Ryan Finley? Zero interceptions, high efficiency, and the lack of rushing yards are the first things that stick out looking at the numbers so far.
BTP: Finley is the steady hand of the offense. He doesn't make very many mistakes, and excels at keeping the offense on the field for long, sustained drives. He's not going to wow you a whole lot, but his ability to keep the offense humming has been invaluable so far for the Pack. Finley has been very good on 3rd downs, completing over 70% of his pass attempts, so if Wake is going to be successful, they're going to need to find a way to put lots of pressure on Finley into forcing bad throws and potential mistakes.
BSD: What's the strength of the defense? What are areas that other teams have taken advantage of?
BTP: State's defense starts with their front four. There is a ton of size up front, and they excel at putting pressure on opposing offenses. Definitely keep an eye on Darian Roseboro, who is almost always in the mix on defense. From the linebackers, both Jerod Fernandez and Airius Moore are tackling machines, so they'll be ones to look out for as well. The weakest part of State's defense is definitely the secondary, which has a propensity to give up big pass plays. There's definitely some weaknesses there that the WFU offense can exploit.
BSD: After the Deacs gave up several big plays to Indiana, who are the Pack's home run threats they have will to be aware of on Saturday?
BTP: First and foremost, Jaylen Samuels. He is the Pack's jack of all trades - he can line up just about anywhere on the field, and in the blink of an eye can blow by a defense. His ability for explosive home run plays is pretty remarkable - my colleague at BTP, Steven and I have talked a few times on our podcasts that it blows our minds how many times Samuels has walked -literally walked into the endzone. He's truly a special talent.
There's also Matt Dayes, who along with Finley's steady hand gives the Pack offense a pretty solid 1-2 punch. From an up and coming stand point, Thaddeus Moss is a name to keep an eye on. He's the son of the legendary Randy Moss, and he caught his first touchdown two weeks ago against Old Dominion. He, like Samuels is listed as a TE, but can also line up all over the field, and gives NC State another dynamic layer on offense.
BSD: Any NC State tailgate recommendations for those making the drive down I-40?
BTP: If you're looking for an early start, parking at Carter-Finley opens at 10:30 am. There are plenty of Bojangles around if you want to keep it simple for a breakfast tailgate. If you're looking for some lunch options near the stadium before heading in, there's a Char-Grill (tremendous burgers), as well as a Rudino's (great pizza and subs) on Edwards Mill Road.
Also, just a heads up there's a new clear bag policy at the Carter-Finley that's similar to the one used by NFL teams.
If you're planning to stay in Raleigh after the game, the Wide Open Bluegrass festival is happening this weekend, and there are a ton of free shows in downtown Raleigh on Fayetteville Street.
BSD: How do you think the game will play out on Saturday?
BTP: I feel much better about this game being in Raleigh, and I think the Pack knows just how important this game is to their season. I think Samuels will have a big day on offense, and he's going to need to if the Pack is going to win. I see this being a higher scoring game, but I think Finley's steady hand and the combination of Dayes and Samuels will be too much for Wake to handle. I'll take the Pack 38-28.