NC State has been known for their offense over the last two years but they will be coming to Cardinal Stadium trying to pick up the pieces after a terrible loss to Wake Forest. State has had issues running the ball all year but they abandoned the run game against Wake and paid for it. Dave Doeren will have to work out a better gameplan this week as Louisville will be looking to get a spark after the coaching change.
The quarterback position in the ACC was expected to be down this year but Ryan Finley was the lone bright spot. Finley is a prototype pocket passer with great accuracy and average arm strength. He has been projected as a guy that will go in the first few rounds of the draft in the spring and his consistency is a likely reason why. Finley is going to hit somewhere between 65-75% of his passes in any given game. State likes to throw short passes and they are more about efficiency than explosiveness. Finley fits that very well even though they do hit some big plays down the field at times.
State only ran the ball 27 times last week even though they were going up against a woeful Wake Forest run defense. For context, Syracuse ran the ball 60 times the week before when they played Wake and came out with an easy win. For whatever reason, State decided to do the opposite and throw the ball around even though they led for most of the game. Even though they’ve had issues running the ball this year, it made no sense at all and it’s probably a big part of how they lost the game
I would be surprised if the Wolfpack didn’t focus on running the ball this weekend and they’ll use Reggie Gallaspy and Ricky Person to do it. Gallaspy is averaging under four yards per carry but he has had games where his bruising style has worked really well. Person was the fourth ranked running back in the country last year and he’s been good when healthy. Person is the guy that I’m most concerned with because he can break the big runs. He’s got good speed but more than that, he’s got the right amount of patience to let things develop behind a good line.
The receivers for State came into this season as one of the best groups in the country and they haven’t disappointed at all. While they don’t have the big play makers that some of the top schools in the country have, they have a super consistent group that is very reliable. Kelvin Harmon is the top receiver on the team and he’s the most likely guy to break a big play. Harmon is a monster of a receiver but he shows good speed on the outside.
Jakobi Meyers is the safety blanket for Finley this year. he and Harmon are both in the top ten in the country in catches per game. Meyers is tall and lanky but he does really well in the slot. His timing seems to be the key reason he’s always open and that might be a byproduct of him being a former quarterback. He’s also the most likely guy to run a trick play.
I would put NC State’s offensive line at the top of the list in the ACC. They brought back some very talented guys but they were also able to backfill their losses with good players. State likes to run the ball to the left side behind Terronne Prescod and Tyler Jones and they do it pretty well. The strength of this group is pass protection, though. They give Finley a ton of time to throw the ball and they handle blitzes really well. Louisville might be the team that helps them find their ability to run block better and it’s not likely that they will have much of an issue protecting Finley.