The Citadel (3-0) at NC State (2-1) Sept. 22, 6:00, ESPN3
Here’s The Deal: North Carolina State has begun to build some momentum after losing the opener with Tennessee. The Pack still has a lot of work to do, but back-to-back wins over Connecticut and South Alabama will make practice and film study a little more bearable. It has one more game to smooth out the wrinkles before beginning ACC play with a trip to Miami.
The Citadel is hot, ranked for the first time in four years and looking to expand its splash at the expense of NC State. The Bulldogs are not only unbeaten, but have surprised powerhouses Georgia Southern and Appalachian State in consecutive games.
Why The Citadel Might Win: The ground game is deep and unrelenting. The Bulldogs are No. 3 in the FCS in rushing, averaging a whopping 370 yards a game. QB Ben Dupree and running backs Darien Robinson and Rickey Anderson have all authored 100-yard games this month, operating the triple-option to perfection. This is one of those games that NC State’s dearth of proven linebackers could really haunt the defense.
The Pack’s defensive strength is in the secondary, but the likes of CB David Amerson could be neutralized on Saturday.
Why NC State Might Win: The Citadel is a different animal, but the Pack D has played well since Week 1, allowing just seven points in each of the last two games.
The Bulldogs’ bigger concern will be containing an ACC offense. They don’t get much of a push at the line, which won’t change in Raleigh. Mike Glennon will have the time he needs to locate Quintin Payton and Bryan Underwood on patterns, and Tony Creecy might finally be able to get the necrotic running game back on track.
What To Watch Out For: Although the Pack has risen on defense against offensive lightweights, building confidence is crucial for a mediocre collection of talent. Winning the line of scrimmage will be essential to slowing down The Citadel this week.
State got a boost from the return of DT A.J. Ferguson, who had been set back by academic hurdles. In his first action of the season, he chipped in with a pair of sacks and a forced fumble.
What Will Happen: For NC State, this is not the ordinary FCS scrimmage prior to the start of league play. No, The Citadel is a threat to walk out of Carter-Finley Stadium 4-0.
The Pack isn’t playing with enough offensive execution to jet past the Bulldogs. Plus, the visitor’s ball-control mindset will limit State’s touches. The Pack will survive on the strength of Glennon’s arm and leadership, but it won’t happen without plenty of tense moments for the home crowd.
CFN Prediction: NC State 30 … The Citadel 24
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) NL O/U: NL
Must Watch Rating (5 – Ray Lewis: A Football Life, 1 – Frankenweenie): 1.5