Wake Forest (5-4) at NC State (5-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 10, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carter-Finley Stadium (57,583) -- Raleigh, North Carolina. Television: RSN. Home Record: Wake Forest 4-2, NC State 3-1. Away Record: Wake Forest 1-2, NC State 2-2. Neutral Record: Wake Forest 0-0, NC State 0-1. Conference Record: Wake Forest 3-4, NC State 2-3 Series Record: NC State leads 62-37-6.
GAME NOTES: A reeling NC State Wolfpack will try to get back in the win column and salvage what remains of its season against a Wake Forest Demon Deacons' unit hungry for its second straight six-win season this Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Although it has yet to really play consistently, Wake Forest is coming off a 28-14 victory against Boston College that puts the Demon Deacons at 5-4 overall this season. With one more win the Demon Deacons would be bowl eligible in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2008 and only the second time in school history. A win would also give the Demon Deacons a 4-4 record in conference play with its next two games (at Notre Dame, vs. Vanderbilt) coming outside of conference play.
Back in mid-October, NC State looked to be a team that could compete for an ACC title after downing two of its first three conference opponents including current leader Florida State. Since then the Wolfpack have dropped back-to- back games to fall to 5-4 overall and 2-3 in conference play. The Wolfpack's most recent loss, a 33-6 debacle at home to Virginia, was undoubtedly the low- point of the season with the 27-point margin of victory the largest against NC State since a 34-0 rout by Florida State last season. NC State will still have time to secure some more conference wins with games at Clemson and versus Boston College next on the docket.
Although NC State has dominated this all-time series historically, it has been a much more even affair. Under head coach Jim Grobe, the Demon Deacons have split the last 12 meetings with the Wolfpack including a 34-27 victory last season. That was the fifth win in the last seven tries for Wake Forest against NC State.
Michael Campanaro had himself a game against Boston College. The redshirt junior receiver has clearly gotten right back to full strength after he was slowed by a broken hand earlier this season, as he tied an ACC record by hauling in 16 passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns. It was the fifth time that a receiver has caught 16 passes this season but the first time in which the player's team came out with a win. Despite missing two games this season Campanaro is tied for third in the ACC in receptions (60) for 604 yards and six total scores. Terence Davis (33 receptions, 429 yards) serves as a solid second option, while fullback Tommy Bohanon has been dangerous near the end zone with five of his 18 receptions going for touchdowns.
On the other end of those passes has been quarterback Tanner Price who has turned in a decent season. He has completed just 55.5 percent of his passes for 1,852 yards, but has 12 touchdowns to only five interceptions. Price played very well against Boston College completing an astounding 39-of-57 pass attempts for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Price has been so good at limiting his mistakes this season that the interception he threw in the third quarter was the first pick he had been guilty of in 159 straight attempts.
In terms of running the ball, Wake Forest is certainly not one of the premier teams in the ACC. Wake Forest is ranked 110th nationally, averaging 112.3 yards on the ground per game. Josh Harris has been the featured back for the weak running game with 592 yards on 129 carries and five touchdowns. His backup Deandre Martin also has five scores to go with 330 yards. Harris was featured more prominently last week, rushing for 84 yards on 17 carries, while Martin was held to just 22 yards and a 2.8 yards per carry.
The strength for Wake Forest on defense has been its ability to create turnovers with the team's plus-seven turnover margin tied for the top spot in the ACC. That ability to create mistakes by opposing offenses has made up for a rather middle of the road defensive unit. Wake Forest is allowing 28 points and 416.7 yards per game which are both near the middle of the rankings in the ACC.
Kevin Johnson has been the most opportunistic defender for the Demon Deacons with his three interceptions tied for third most in the ACC. Johnson has made it a habit of making plays on the ball even when he doesn't create a turnover with his 14 passes defended the second most in the conference. The players to watch up front are Justin Jackson (66 tackles, 7.0 for loss, 4.0 sacks) and Zach Thompson (44 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 4.0 sacks), who are tied for the team lead in sacks. Jackson is also the team leader in tackles.
Perhaps the one-sided nature of NC State's offense has caught up with it in the last few weeks. The Wolfpack are the second most prolific passing team in the ACC (294.7 ypg) but are scraping the bottom of the league, and the nation overall by producing just 110.9 yards per game on the ground. In the loss to Virginia, that lack of an offensive punch out of the backfield was glaringly obvious as the Wolfpack ran for just 19 yards on 24 carries. Part of that issue came from the six sacks that the offensive line allowed, which accounted for a total loss of 34 yards, but the Wolfpack are definitely not a team that will run the ball effectively.
Without a running game Mike Glennon has needed to be just about perfect at quarterback and he was far from it against Virginia. Glennon threw three interceptions, while completing an even 50 percent of his passes (23-for-46) for 197 yards and a touchdown. Those types of numbers were far below what has come to be expected from Glennon, who has completed 56.9 percent of his passes for 2,652 yards and 20 touchdowns. The three picks give him 12 for the season as well.
Glennon's rough day did not stop lead receivers Quintin Payton and Bryan Underwood from hauling in a combined 10 passes. However neither was able to produce much in terms of big plays with the pair finishing with 49 and 52 yards, respectively. Payton has caught a team-high 40 passes for 652 yards (also a team-high), while Underwood has brought in 32 passes for 512 yards. Underwood has also had a real nose for the end zone with 10 touchdown receptions this season, second most in the ACC.
Despite having what was thought to be one of the most talented secondaries in the country this season, NC State has really struggled to defend the pass. The Wolfpack are dead last in the conference allowing 269.2 yards through the air per game. Opposing quarterbacks are also turning in a 134.8 rating versus the Wolfpack which is better than only two teams in the conference.
That lack of ability to stop teams through the air is unfortunate because NC State has excelled in other areas. The Wolfpack's pass rush has been dominant with the team's 25 sacks the most in the conference and the 66 tackles for loss second to only North Carolina.
Due to the fact that teams have been able to get the ball to their receivers with such ease its no surprise that many of NC State's top tacklers reside in the secondary. Safeties Brandan Bishop (79) and Earl Wolff (78) are the two leaders on the team and also rank in the top 10 in the ACC. All-American David Amerson has been able to make plays on the ball (four interceptions, nine passes defended) but has not played at the level that was expected of him after last season.
It's been frustrating trying to figure out the Wolfpack this season. NC State has had some real highs, like the comeback win over Florida State but has also had crippling lows, none worse than last week's loss. Wake Forest meanwhile, has surprised many thanks in large part to the offensive exploits of Campanaro. Playing at home should help NC State, but getting an improvement in the run game or in Glennon's play, along with how well the secondary handles Campanaro, will determine if the Wolfpack can bounce back.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: NC State 27, Wake Forest 17
11/07 10:38:55 ET