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What To Watch For: NC State Wolfpack

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Morale has improved so we’re back to talking about both teams in this week’s #W2W4.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

My streak of only talking about what the other team would do to Louisville is over now that Vince Tyra gave me a reason to write about UofL again.

HOW DOES THE TEAM RESPOND TO THE COACHING CHANGE

A point that both Vince Tyra and G.G. Robinson has pointed out over the last two days is that the players haven’t been giving full effort on the field this year. So I’m really interested to see if we see a change there immediately. The defensive side of the ball is obvious. Guys have been taking plays off and plenty of guys aren’t even running half speed to the ball.

I’m more interested in what we see from the offense. Especially the offensive line on run plays. The issues with the line are very deep and they won’t likely be fixed in two games, but I’d love to see guys fire off the ball and block aggressively. The skill spots have shown the effort you need early on in games but the line has derailed almost every positive this year. These guys could have a huge impact this weekend.

WHAT PERSONNEL CHANGES WILL WE SEE

It’s no secret that Bobby Petrino had his “favorites” in the program and he made the decisions on who would play and who wouldn’t. It’s why two starters on an improved offensive line from last season are sitting on the bench right now. It’s also why Colin Wilson is just now getting carries even though he’s the best overall back on the team. I don’t think we’ve seen it as much on the defensive side of the ball, but Russ Yeast decided to leave the team for a reason.

I think we’ll see Jawon Pass at quarterback this week even if Malik Cunningham is 100% healthy. Lonnie Galloway will likely want to get the passing game going and Malik can be used in packages. I’d be shocked if anyone not named Colin Wilson or Hassan Hall get carries in the game. Javian Hawkins could get in there though. He still has a game or two that he can play in. On the offensive line I would love to see Robbie Bell and Kenny Thomas playing. Those guys should’ve been starting this year and Bell can’t get a medical redshirt because he played against Georgia Tech.

NC STATE WILL FLIP THEIR PHILOSOPHY AND RUN THE BALL THIS WEEK

It’s a little bit of a misconception that Louisville’s pass defense isn’t as bad as the run defense because the raw numbers paint that picture. But when you get deeper into the numbers they’re giving up a touchdown pass on every 8th completion and they’re allowing over 8 yards per completion. In reality, Indiana State and Georgia Tech didn’t throw the ball much and then everyone else just ran the ball because they could.

NC State would probably use their passing attack against UofL in a normal situation because it’s really good and the defense is really bad. Seems simple but they’re coming off of a game where they all but abandoned the run and it ended up costing them the game. Wake Forest hung around because State threw the ball 52 times and couldn’t score in the red zone. I think they will change things up this week and run the football because UofL hasn’t stopped anyone in weeks. They also have to fix their issues running the football. The only way you do that is by committing to it in actual games.

WILL WE SEE CHANGES IN THE OFFENSIVE SCHEME

Lorenzo Ward caught me off guard on Monday when he announced that Lonnie Galloway would be calling the plays going forward. Galloway doesn’t have any experience calling plays that I can find looking back through his career. I expected Mike Summers to take on that role but he hasn’t called plays since I was in high school so I guess it doesn’t really matter. We could see some changes to the ovrall scheme with Galloway calling the plays.

UofL won’t be learning a new playbook this week but I do think we will see some of the more creative plays that we only saw once or twice a year or in open practices. Louisville has all of the jet sweep and end around types of plays that fans have been clamoring for. They just don’t call them. They can also run RPOs just like every other team in 2018. I’m also very intrigued to see if they go a little faster on offense. I know that sounds crazy with so many changes but it really just comes down to making the call more quickly. They will still be using the same signals to get the calls in so it’s not crazy to think that Galloway would use pace to help the energy of the offense.

CAN LOUISVILLE WIN THIS GAME?

This question would have been extremely ridiculous a few days ago but the firing of Bobby Petrino has reinvigorated this program. Lorenzo Ward and the rest of the staff have done a great job of focusing on the players and they have worked to make these last two weeks fun for them. The interviews from the players have shown that they knew that a change was needed and some have made it pretty obvious they were hopeful that change was coming. The team dinner on Sunday after Petrino was fired was described to me as a “party” if more context is needed. There is a brand new energy within this program and it’s been led by Vince Tyra and how he has handled everything from Sunday morning on.

That still doesn’t mean that this team is going to just show up and be a completely different team on the field, though. There are glaring issues with the overall make up of the team that will not be fixed in a week. It’s also a known fact that Petrino left the defense to the coordinator and the system that Brian VanGorder runs hasn’t worked at all this year and NC State has one of the best offenses in the country. I think the effort will be better and I could see the offense playing a good game against a suspect defense. While they won’t likely win this game, I’d be shocked if they don’t play their best game of the year. I knew that things would be better after they moved on from Petrino but I think that Ward and Tyra deserve a lot of credit for completely flipping the attitude of this program in a couple of days. Kudos to the players for being honest and forthcoming also. They deserve to finish this year with some positives feelings even if they’re all off the field.