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Countdown Q&A: NC State

VMI v NC State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Another season is upon us, and therefore it’s time to embark on the whimsical journey of the weekly opponent Q&A. Sometimes we only gain a little insight, but often our football brethren from across the country share a wealth of knowledge about their respective teams and what we may see when they roll the ball out there in the next few days.

The Cards next opponent is the Wolfpack of North Carolina State. Don’t adjust your televisions, the Wolfpack are sitting at 3-1 and are being led by former UVA QB Brennan Armstrong. Old ‘BA’ has had his way with the Cards a few times the last couple years but repeating that feat with a new team and with a drastically different Louisville team on the other sideline may be a bit more challenging. One man who may know if it can happen is Steven Muma from ‘Backing The Pack’. I talked with Steven about all things Wolfpack, including my take on Mr. and Mrs. Wuf going a little over the top on PDA (that one got cut due to time constraints), but he’s got answers to what the Cards will be facing in a tough road environment. Lets get to it.

From a high level it seems like NC State is maybe sitting where you would have expected after four games, but the journey to get there has been a bit “offroad” if you will. What’s the high level view on this team one third into the schedule as they fought a bit with UCONN and had a thriller with UVA last week?

That’s a fair assessment for sure—the team’s won the games it was supposed to up to this point, just not done in an, uh, ideal fashion. I’d say the season has left most of us feeling like the ceiling for this team is lower than we thought, as the anticipated improvements offensively haven’t materialized, while some injuries on the back end of the defense have been detrimental.

If the execution were tighter here and there offensively, then neither the UConn or UVA games had to be that close and maybe the sense is different, but this looks like a 7-5 team to me.

Most ACC opponents are very familiar with Brennan Armstrong at QB, and Cards fans have experienced a few battles with him, including a 300+ yd game last year and nearly 400 yards the season prior. What does he bring to the table in the NC State offense that may be different from what he did for Virginia? What is the same?

NC State v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

He’s been more effective using his legs than he has in the past, and that has been a surprisingly (unfortunately) important part of the offense early on. The production from the running backs remains inconsistent.

As a passer he’s been solidly average, and for those of us who hoped he might recreate some of that 2021 magic now that he’s been reunited with Robert Anae, well, it’s pretty clear that ain’t happening. Which is not entirely on him, of course: State’s receiving corps has been all over the place. It helps a lot to have some playmakers, and there this team is severely lacking. Just like last year.

For me, NC State is synonymous with a solid defense front. Not to judge a book by the cover but some of the point totals this year are a bit higher than I would expect for this team. Is it a defense struggle? Offense putting them in short fields?

The Notre Dame game was definitely the latter, but in general we’ve seen that losing as much talent as State did on that side is having an impact, particularly in the secondary, where Tony Gibson is really missing a piece like Tanner Ingle. Ingle allowed State to do so many different things and do them aggressively because it could rely on him to handle business at the line of scrimmage.

Both of NC State’s Week 1 starting safeties are hurt, which is not helpful, and the linebacking group has been a bit underwhelming, Payton Wilson aside. The result is a defense that’s made more mistakes and given up more big plays than we’re used to. Still plenty of talent up front, though, and I think the defense will get better in the next month, barring more injury calamity.

The Louisville offense, not without faults, has been pretty good so far this season. One of the reasons is the home run threat from Jawhar Jordan and Jamari Thrash among others, putting up numerous long plays for touchdowns. What’s the scheme to stop that, is it just as simple as keeping everyone in front of you, giving up short yardage?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 NC State at UConn Photo by Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

That’s the big question facing Tony Gibson heading into Friday night, no doubt about that. I know what he WANTS to do, but also State’s got to be more realistic about some of its shortcomings on that side, I think. I suspect that State will be more conservative early, but they’re not just gonna stop leaning on their excellent corners and gambling with pressure. I’m sure how much traction Louisville’s run game gets will be a significant factor.

I expect a tight one in Raleigh on Friday night, and I think the atmosphere will undoubtedly be the most hostile the Cards have played in this season. How do you see this one playing out?

It’s tough to pick against State at home under the lights, and while I’d agree with Vegas and everyone in the city of Louisville that the Cardinals have the better team, I’ll take State by a field goal here.


Big thanks again to Steven for his time. Feel free to follow ‘Backing The Pack’ on the old ‘Twitter-X’ site right here for all things NC State. Also, go check out my Q&A with the BTP guys right here . I was nervous last week that BC’s mobile QB could hurt the Cards in space. To my credit, he did just that, but I didn’t expect Louisville to drop a 50 burger on the Eagles. Armstrong has the ability to do the same, but I feel better about this one than I did a month ago. I think it’s a close on the whole way but I’m gonna flip my preseason prediction and say Jaws seals it late, Cards 24-21.