NC State (4-2) at Maryland (4-2) Oct. 20, 3:30, ESPNU
Here’s The Deal: NC State suddenly controls its own destiny in the ACC Atlantic Division. Heck, so does Maryland. The Terrapins have crept up on the league with all of the suddenness of, well, a turtle. While it has not been, Randy Edsall has gradually begun to turn things around in College Park, despite employing a cadre of underclassmen on the offensive side of the ball. His Terps, a year after going 2-10, boast wins over Temple, Wake Forest and Virginia, and only fell by 13 points to Connecticut and West Virginia. And is the last unbeaten team in league play. The Wolfpack returns to action after spending a week off to rest and revel in the stunning upset of Florida State two weeks earlier. State finds itself in good shape at the halfway of the season, but desperately wants to prove to the conference—and the entire country—that its late rally versus one of the nation’s top teams was not a fluke.
Why NC State Might Win: Yeah, there have been exceptions, such as the opener with Tennessee and Week 5 in Miami, but the Wolfpack defense has held up well for the better part of the year. Maryland doesn’t figure to change the trend. The Terrapins harbor the youngest—and statistically poorest—attack in the ACC, averaging just 267 yards and 22 points per game. While the rookies, like QB Perry Hills and WR Stefon Diggs, are growing weekly, they remain a relative liability. And the O-line is not helping. Assertive NC State will look to rattle the young quarterback, mixing its looks, and turning loose outside linebackers Rickey Dowdy and Rodman Noel.
Why Maryland Might Win: The Wolfpack defense has been good. The one hailing from College Park has been a notch better. The Terps have been blue-collar and stout all year, ranking in the top 20 nationally in run defense, pass defense, sacks and total D, despite spending way too much time on the field. If NC State and Tom O’Brien had only hopes of establishing the, it won’t happen at Byrd Stadium. Maryland is allowing just 2.6 yards per carry, gumming up running lanes with DE Joe Vellano and linebackers Darin Drakeford and Demetrius Hartsfield. And stationary QB Mike Glennon will not get the time he needs to check down and locate an open receiver.
What To Watch Out For: Diggs is already busting at the seams with elite potential, a former five-star recruit who leads Maryland with 21 receptions for 453 yards and three scores. It’s going to be interesting to see how the rookie performs in one of his toughest tests of the season, going head-to-head with the veteran NC State defensive backs. The Pack has given up more big plays than the coaching staff would care to tolerate, but with 6-3 ball-hawking CB David Amerson roaming the secondary, it’s never safe to put balls up for grabs.
What Will Happen: Big game. Toss-up game. In a battle of 4-2 teams that’ll be dictated by the defenses, it’ll come down to which quarterback can make clutch plays in the final 20 minutes. Advantage NC State. Glennon has not been perfect this fall, but he is a gifted fifth-year senior, who proved two weeks ago that he can rally his team at pivotal points in the game. After trading sacks, turnovers and salty defensive plays, it’ll be Glennon to clutch WR Bryan Underwood once again to help StatNorth Caroe escape with another close, edge-of-the-seat victory.
CFN Prediction: NC State 28 … Maryland 20