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Opponent Breakdown: NC State Defense

East Carolina v North Carolina State Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The NC State defense has always been a bit underwhelming to me but they always did enough to get wins. This year they haven’t done nearly enough to get those wins with no help from their offense. State has also been hit by some rough injury luck with some key players. They also entered this season needing to replace a fair amount of guys from last year’s team. All of those things have led to a very rough year with very little to hang their hat on.

The defensive front is the strong point of this defense. State has done well to recruit and develop guys on the defensive line and it’s helping to keep this defense together right now. Larrell Murchison and Alim McNeill make up a very good defensive tackle duo. Murchison is a good pass rusher who lead the ACC in sacks at one point this year. McNeill is one of the biggest recruiting victories Dave Doeren has had and he’s finally starting to get a full load of snaps. He’s athletic enough to cause some issues on the outside zone runs as he can run things down from his nose tackle spot. These two guys will play a huge role in this game as Louisville will want to run the ball and establish the offense very early.

NC State isn’t getting much of anything from the defensive end spots but James Smith-Williams is a solid player at the field defensive end spot. Xavier Lyas is also a solid young player but he decided to transfer after their game last week. Not much about this line worries you from a pass rushing standpoint but they do have players. They just haven’t produced. Louisville has allowed some guys to have above average games against them up front this year. That can’t happen if they want to win this game. Dave Doeren is a good coach. Even though things aren’t going well this year, his team is playing hard. Giving them a spark would be a big mistake for Louisville.

The linebacker group for State has been banged up this year. Isaiah Moore is the veteran of the group but he hasn’t been very productive this year and he missed the Clemson game. Payton Wilson hasn’t been a starter this year but he is third in tackles. He left the Clemson game with a collarbone injury after getting his first start. Louis Acceus also missed the Clemson game but it looks like he has the potential to be back for Louisville. As of now, it’s very possible that Louisville could be facing a linebacker group that is made up of freshmen that will be making their second starts of the season. That would bode well for the running game.

NC State hasn’t forced a turnover since September and that’s due in part to the injuries they’ve had in the secondary. Nick McCloud returned to the lineup for the Clemson game but he didn’t record a statistic. State also lost their other starting corner a few weeks ago. Half of State’s sacks came against FSU and Syracuse who have two of the worst offensive lines in the country. Outside of those games, the pass rush hasn’t been too impressive and that’s a bad combination to have with a young secondary. I’ve been a fairly consistent advocate for Louisville to get the outside receivers more involved and this week will be no different. The Wolfpack is vulnerable at corner and Louisville should take advantage.

State has been healthy at one spot and that’s safety. Tanner Ingle leads the team in tackles and he’s shown a good ability to cover receivers. He’s on the small side but that doesn’t hurt him as a tackler. He’s one of the more impressive players I’ve watched this year. Jarius Moorhead is back for another year and he’s still a solid player who should help this defense against the run. Louisville does need to find a way to get him into coverage situations. That’s not where he wins.