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WTWF: NC State Wolfpack

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This week's What To Watch For takes a look at the overblown issue of NC State's schedule.

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

THE WOLPACK'S SCHEDULE STRENGTH IS BEING OVERBLOWN

NC State hasn't played a tough schedule by any measure. But that doesn't say anything about how good their team is. There's not much this team can do about the teams that they have faced off against other than to go out and beat them. The Wolfpack has done just that and they've executed extremely well while doing it. That is the measure of a good team in my opinion. Can they go out and execute the things they want to do and can they do it well? Jacoby Brissett is completing nearly 80% of his passes. He hasn't turned the ball over. Matt Dayes is averaging over 100 yards per game and has 9 touchdown runs. Jaylen Samuel is a matchup nightmare in his hybrid FB/TE role. This isn't a team that is breaking in a ton of new players or finished last season on a losing steak. They've won 8 of their last 9 games and they returned starters and contributors on both sides of the ball.

I get that people think that who you play says a lot about your team. But it's too simplistic to really be what one uses to judge an entire team. You know who else has a "bad" schedule? Houston. They also have three games where they've executed extremely well and they're entering this week undefeated. NCSU could very well be a team that shows up Saturday and lays an egg. They could also be a team that is 100% legit. The schedule they've played doesn't make either of those things more known.

LOUISVILLE HAS A CHANCE TO BE CONSISTENT FOR THE FIRST TIME

The Louisville football team has spent this season trying to put together two straight games in which the offense, defense, and special teams all come together and play well. The Samford game saw the team play well against an overmatched opponent. That's what they're supposed to do and it is a much bigger deal than it might seem that they actually did it. That now affords the team to do the same as an underdog this week.

NCSU has an offensive line that hasn't played all that well against defensive fronts that don't have near the talent that Louisville has. Their secondary has given up touchdown passes to receivers that aren't as big or athletic as UofL's. There are weak points in this Wolfpack team that should be exploited by a Louisville team that showed on Saturday that they can play well with momentum on their side.

Consistency is the mark of a good team and I'm sure Louisville's staff knows that. A seconds straight win would be great, but a win where all of the issues from the first quarter of the season are at least improved would be much more important. Florida State on the road isn't a win that comes from lucky breaks or fluke plays. It's a game where you have to be able to create points and force turnovers. It's a game that you have to win by playing sound football. Saturday is an opportunity to show that this team didn't just gain an easy win last week.

MICKY CRUM AND JAMES QUICK VS. HAKIM AND JOSH JONES

Micky Crum has been an absolute stud this year for Louisville's offense and James Quick showed last week that he has no ill-effects from his ankle injury sustained in the Auburn game. Inside receivers are a young quarterback's best friend and Lamar Jackson will need to rely on both of his top receivers this week. The Joneses lining up at safety for NCSU are both good players that just happen to be much better against the run than they are in coverage. The same could be said for most safeties in college football. That's why the vast majority of them end up at safety in the first place. Crum and Quick could see themselves locked up in man coverage with either safety Saturday as the Wolfpack defense likes to bring deliberate pressure and trusts it's defensive backs to win one-on-one battles. The issue with that is that these safeties don't win those matchups all the time. In fact, three of the four touchdown passes State has surrendered have been given up on by Jones or.....Jones. All three have been in man coverage.

IS THIS LOUISVILLE PROGRAM PLAYING FOR NEXT YEAR?

This game is just as big as you're probably thinking it is. 1-5 with the possibility of trying to get win number two in a 75% full stadium against an outstanding Boston College defense is not a place this program wants to be. NC State and Florida State are losses that this team can spin. It's a "young" team that is full of Bobby Petrino's offensive recruits. The issue is that 1-5 is a record that will lead people to wonder just how good those recruits are. Louisville fans are aware that having one of the worst records in the conference a year after winning nine games isn't where this program should be.

At that point does the team move on to playing for next year? Are they already there? Last week saw Jermaine Reve finally running with the first team. It saw Corvin Lamb finally get a few carries. T.C. Klusman even started at Center. So I don't think that the #TheFutureIsBright hashtag that is being used on social media is a sign that the staff has decided that they need to move into full on "look how good we're going to be next year" mode. I think we all know that that changes if the team starts off 1-5. At that point it's not only important to get on the field evaluations of their young players but it's important to make sure that fans and recruits feel that the staff has a plan for the future. For now I think that the staff is trying to find the best group of guys to deploy Petrino's new offensive system. This week should show us rather that system has found those guys.