North Carolina State Wolfpack (3-1 SU, 0-4 ATS) vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-2 SU, 0-2 ATS), 3:30 p.m. EST, Saturday, October 3, 2009, BB&T Field, Winston Salem, N.C. TV: ESPNU
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: North Carolina State -1/Wake Forest +1
North Carolina State has won three games in a row after a 7-3 loss to South Carolina to open the season. But all four of those games were at home. Now, the Wolfpack will go on the road for the first time this season as they travel to inner-state ACC rival Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon.
In Wake Forest’s three games against FBS opponents, the Demon Deacons have allowed 491 rushing yards. They’ve allowed six passing touchdowns as well, but none of the three FBS quarterbacks they’ve faced have reached 300 yards. The formula to score on Wake is to put the ball on the ground as establish a solid rushing attack, and then mix in some passing and keep Wake off balance.
The Wake Forest defense allowed just 18.3 points per game last season, but it has let up 22.3 per game against the three FBS opponents this season. The Wake defense just isn’t quite as effective this year, therefore the offense has had to do more.
Quarterback Riley Skinner is the key to the Wake Forest offense. In four games, Skinner has thrown for 973 yards and eight touchdowns, but he has thrown five interceptions. That’s been a huge problem for the Demon Deacons. Wake doesn’t have a top-notch offense, so throwing more than an interception per game makes it that much more difficult to win games.
And the interceptions have mattered because Wake could easily be 4-0 right now instead of 2-2. The two losses were both by just three points - 27-24 to Boston College and 24-21 to Baylor. The two wins were a 35-7 victory over Elon and a 24-17 come-from-behind win over Stanford.
NC State has just two interceptions this season, none of which came in the last two games. If the Wolfpack can put some pressure on Skinner and force some errant throws, they could come away with an interception or two. But if they allow Skinner to sit in the pocket, he could pick them apart and control the ballgame.
In NC State’s last game, Pittsburgh quarterback Bill Stull threw for 206 yards. The bad news for Skinner and Wake Forest - that’s the most any quarterback has thrown for against NC State this season.
If Skinner is the key to Wake’s offense and the Wolfpack don’t allow very many passing yards, how can Wake win this game? The obvious answer would be by running the ball well, but Wake hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher in any game this season. The Demon Deacons have had 10 different ball-carriers, led by Josh Adams, who has 35 carries in the four games. Adams has totaled 135 rushing yards for the season, while Brandon Pendergrass (18 carries) leads the team with 139 yards. Even against Wake’s easiest foe - FCS opponent Elon - the Demon Deacons totaled just 134 rushing yards on 43 carries, a total that isn’t terrible but certainly isn’t intimidating.
Wake Forest has scored between 21 and 24 points in its last five games against FBS teams, dating back to last season. The offense is fairly consistent, but it’s Wake’s defense that will likely decide the outcome of the game.
NC State is led by quarterback Russell Wilson, who thus far has thrown for 969 yards, 12 touchdowns and no interceptions in four games. To a blind eye, that looks phenomenal. But 573 yards and eight of the 12 touchdowns have come in two wins over Murray State and Gardner-Webb. Against a solid South Carolina defense in the opener, Wilson passed for just 74 yards and the Wolfpack scored just three points.
Wilson threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns in the victory over Pittsburgh. It’s clear that if Wilson is able to establish an effective passing game, he will dominate and the Wolfpack will score some points. But when he faced a tough defense against South Carolina, the team failed to reach the end zone. Wake Forest hasn’t allowed more than 206 yards yet to a quarterback, so there’s a good chance Wake is going to limit Wilson’s impact with a stellar pass defense.
The Wolfpack also ran for 231 yards against Pitt, but even with all of those rushing yards they had to come from two touchdowns down to win the game late in the fourth quarter. Wake Forest has given up just 105 rushing yards per game in its last three games, so it’s unlikely that the Wolfpack will run all over Wake, especially since the 231 rushing yards was an abnormality.
North Carolina State has lost its first road game in each of the last four seasons. In general, NC State is not a very good road team, going 4-11 in its last 15 road games, including a 38-18 loss at Wake Forest in 2007 and a 27-19 loss at Wake in 2005. Wake Forest has won the fifth game on its schedule in each of the last four seasons.
Ryno’s Pick: On paper, it looks like NC State is the better team. But there are too many factors pointing towards Wake Forest, a team that could easily be 4-0 right now. The Demon Deacons are 5-1 ATS in their last six meetings with NC State and they have won 14 of their last 17 home games. NC State hasn’t been on the road yet this season and historically is not very good on the road. Wilson will get shut down and Wake will control the game at home. Take Wake Forest +1.