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Dave Doeren has done a nice job at NC State. The former Northern Illinois head coach is now in his third year in Raleigh, and the Wolfpack have gotten progressively better.
NC State has won seven of their last eight games dating back to last season, though for the most part the competition hasn’t been strong. Here’s who they’ve played in that span…
Wake Forest: 42-13 W
North Carolina: 35-7 W
UCF (Bowl): 34-27 W
Troy: 49-21 W
Eastern Kentucky: 35-0 W
Old Dominion: 38-14 W
South Alabama: 63-13 W
Louisville: 20-13 L
The Wolfpack hadn’t played anyone with a pulse for awhile, and though Louisville didn’t have a great record heading into last week’s game, the Cardinals had played a very tough schedule and were battle tested. Despite last week’s loss, NC State fans have to be happy with how far they’ve come since Doeren was hired.
NC State Offense vs. VT Defense, Advanced Stats
Here are the matchups, from an advanced stats point of view. First, the NC State offense…
Success Rate: #24
Explosive Plays: #72
And now the Virginia Tech defense…
Success Rate: #18
Explosive Plays: #126
Overall, this is a pretty even matchup. I believe the key will be big plays. Teams haven’t been able to sustain drives on the Hokies this year, but Tech has one of the worst defenses in the country when it comes to giving up big plays. Meanwhile, NC State has been able to sustain drives, but they haven’t been particularly adept at hitting big plays. Something will have to give.
Brissett vs. the Virginia Tech Defense
Jacoby Brissett (6-4, 235, r-Sr.) is one of the best quarterbacks in the country that nobody has heard of. Check out his stats from last year and so far this year…
2014: 221 of 370 (59.7%) for 2606 yards, 23 TDs, 5 INTs
2015: 90 of 123 (73.2%) for 992 yards, 7 TDs, 0 INTs
Total: 311 of 493 (63.1%) for 3598 yards, 30 TDs, 5 INTs
Brissett hasn’t gotten on track in the running game like he did last year (529 yards last year, 39 yards this year), but it’s tough to argue with his passing numbers. He is currently #17 in the country in passing efficiency. He’s thrown just five interceptions since the beginning of the 2014.
He’s a big, strong quarterback with solid mobility. He’s watched film of the Virginia Tech defense giving up big yards to running quarterbacks over the last few years, and you can bet that the NC State coaches will try to make that part of their game plan. He has only run for 39 yards this season after running for 529 all of last year, but it’s quite possible that his 2015 number will go up significantly on Friday night.
As far as the passing game goes, Brissett makes the right decisions, he’s accurate, he can throw the ball on the run, and he doesn’t turn the ball over. Now that Greg Stroman has moved to wide receiver, Brissett will be facing a depleted and inexperienced Tech secondary…
Boundary Corner: Terrell Edmunds (r-Fr.)
Rover: Adonis Alexander (Fr.)
Free Safety: Chuck Clark (Jr.)
Nickel: Mook Reynolds (Fr.)
Field Corner: Brandon Facyson (r-So.)
The Hokies will be starting three freshmen in the secondary, and two of them are true freshmen. Here’s their competition…
Jumichael Ramos (6-2, 200, Jr.): 15 catches, 223 yards, 14.9 ypc, 1 TD
Bra’Lon Cherry (5-11, 191, Jr.): 9 catches, 114 yards, 12.7 ypc
Johnathan Alston (6-0, 203, Jr.): 7 catches, 61 yards, 8.7 ypc
NC State will also start true freshman Nyheim Hines (5-9, 190, Fr.) in the slot. Hines was heavily recruited by Virginia Tech before signing with the Wolfpack.
That’s not a lot of catches for the wide receivers, but NC State enjoys throwing to their backs quite a bit. In fact, the team’s leading receivers are running back Matthew Days (5-9, 203, Jr.) and fullback Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 236, So.). Days has 18 receptions, while Samuels actually leads the team with 25 catches for 300 yards and four touchdowns. It’s not often that you see a fullback catch that many passes and score that many touchdowns.
The Hokies will have to defend a number of viable targets, and they’ll have to do it with a bunch of freshmen in the secondary. They’ll also have to contain Brissett’s rushing ability. Both tasks will be easier said than done.
The Running Game
NC State’s second leading rusher – Shadrach Thornton – was recently dismissed from the team. His loss hurts the Wolfpack depth at tailback, and in particular it robs the team of a power presence between the tackles. He ran for over 900 yards a year ago.
Still, NC State has recruited well in the backfield, and they should be able to field a good rushing attack this season. Matthew Days leads the team with 552 yards and 10 touchdowns on 95 carries. He’s averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Jaylen Samuels, the fullback who leads the team in receptions and touchdown receptions, has 12 carries for 103 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. I can’t go through the statistics for every single team, but I doubt there’s any fullback in the country who is more productive than Samuels. Nine touchdowns on 37 touches through five games is as good as it gets for a fullback these days.
Despite Days and Samuels, the loss of Thornton will be felt.
Overall Offensive Thoughts
On the whole, I feel like NC State’s offense is solid, but they’ve been propped up by their level of competition. They played nobody before Louisville, and then only managed to gain 228 yards of total offense against the Cardinals.
Still, this isn’t your typical Virginia Tech defense. The Hokies aren’t anywhere near as good as Louisville’s defense at this stage. Because of Tech’s past struggles with mobile quarterbacks and the fact that they are starting three freshmen in the secondary, NC State should feel good about taking a step forward offensively this week.
NC State Defense vs. VT Offense, Advanced Stats
First, NC State’s defense…
Success Rate: #15
Explosive Plays: #95
Now, Virginia Tech’s offense, which dropped considerably after last week’s disaster against Pitt…
Success Rate: #79
Explosive Plays: #16
The Tech offense hasn’t been consistent moving the football this year, but they kept their heads above water in the first four games by hitting a lot of big plays. The NC State secondary gives up a lot of big plays. The Hokies have to take advantage.
NC State has a fast defense that has 34 tackles for loss on the season. They don’t sack the quarterback a lot (10 sacks), but they do play in the backfield. By contrast, the higher-touted Tech defense has 31 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. The Wolfpack are doing it despite being extremely young up front. Here’s a look at the youth of their defensive line…
DE Mike Rose (6-3, 270, r-Sr.)
DE Bradley Chubb (6-4, 260, So.)
DE Pharoah McKever (6-6, 260, r-So.)
DE Darian Roseboro (6-4, 287, Fr.)
DT Kentavius Street (6-2, 290, So.)
DT BJ Hill (6-4, 300, So.)
DT Justin Jones (6-2, 300, So.)
DT Monty Nelson (6-2, 310, Jr.)
There is just one senior and one junior among those eight players. Five of those eight guys have been recruited in the last two recruiting classes. Dave Doeren has certainly done a lot over the last two years to improve the talent level up front, including beating out Virginia Tech head-to-head for Kentavius Street.
The top playmakers are senior end Mike Rose (5 TFL, 2 sacks) and sophomore defensive tackle BJ Hill (5 TFL, 2 sacks). However, the penetration comes from everywhere. 20 different players have been credited with at least 0.5 TFL. The Wolfpack have solid playmakers throughout their entire front seven.
Virginia Tech can’t afford to play behind the chains like they did against Pitt. They have to gain solid yardage on first down, and they can’t let NC State tackle them numerous times in the backfield. They have to stay in third and manageable situations; otherwise the offense will have little chance to succeed.
How Good is NC State’s Secondary?
The Wolfpack secondary has not been tested so far this season. Here are their starters…
CB Michael Stevens: 5-11, 190, So.
FS Hakim Jones: 6-2, 200, r-Sr.
SS Josh Jones: 6-2, 215, r-So.
NICK Dravious Wright: 5-10, 208, Jr.
CB Justin Burris: 6-1, 207, r-Sr.
Despite being more experienced in the secondary, this group hasn’t performed all that well so far according to the advanced stats, right? In this particular case, I don’t think we can trust the advanced stats though. Here’s a look at their game by game totals…
Troy: 14 of 21, 184 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
EKU: 7 of 21, 77 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
ODU: 11 of 23, 151 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
South Alabama: 16 of 35, 213 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Louisville: 10 of 27, 103 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Total: 58 of 127 for 728 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs
That looks pretty good to me, and I’m not sure how they are ranked #100 in pass defense according to the S&P+ model.
That being said, the Wolfpack have yet to face a passing offense that is dangerous. Tech’s passing offense struggled last week against Pitt, but it still features more talent and more ability than any of the five the Pack faced in previous weeks.
Overall Defensive Thoughts
Who will play quarterback for the Hokies? We don’t know. I wish Michael Brewer was coming back, because I think he can process things more quickly and efficiently than Brenden Motley. However, my gut tells me that we’ll be without Brewer for another week.
I think NC State is a much better matchup for the Tech offense than Pitt was. The offense line can’t play any worse than they did last week. Unfortunately, the film is out on Motley. Defenses know his strengths and weakness, and unfortunately his weaknesses are exactly what offenses need to have to counter blitzes. He doesn’t have good timing and he’s inaccurate. I would expect NC State to bring the house on Friday night.
The Hokies badly need to establish a running game, and I think we’ll see the offense try to attack more inside the tackles this week.
Special Teams Notes
I want to highlight two guys for NC State, and then I’ll lowlight another. First off, NC State’s return game is very good thanks to these two guys…
PR Bra’Lon Cherry: 14 returns, 246 yards, 17.6 ypr, 51 long
KR Nyheim Hines: 14 returns, 386 yards, 27.6 ypr, 90 long
Besides his impressive punt return work, Cherry also has one kickoff return for 37 yards. Tech’s punt coverage team needs to be on point, and this would be a good week for Joey Slye to start kicking the ball out of the end zone again.
NC State’s placekicker is true freshman Kyle Bambard, and he’s having a rough season. He is just 1 of 4 on the year, and one of those kicks was blocked. It’s still a very small sample size, but if this becomes a field goal battle on Friday night, the Hokies will have the advantage.
I feel like NC State is a bit of a better matchup than Pitt. They weren’t battle tested until last week, and they aren’t as physical as the Panthers. I’ve given some serious thought to picking Virginia Tech this week, until I remembered this…
Those are Virginia Tech’s last eight home games against Power 5 competition. You’ll note that they have lost all of them except for last year’s UVA game, and the Hoos barely even count as Power 5 competition these days. Even then, it took a near-miracle to win the game at the end. Point being, Tech hasn’t beaten anybody with a pulse in Lane Stadium in a long time.
I’ve reached the point that I’m not going to pick us to beat anybody decent at home until I see us do it. I hope to see that on Friday night, but recent history tells us that the Hokies will drop this one. I’m going with the Wolfpack, and that’s probably a good thing for the Hokies. I picked Tech to barely beat Purdue, and they blew them out. I had the Hokies beating ECU by 16, and they lost. Likewise, I picked them to win a close one against Pitt. They are starting to do the opposite of what I predict each week, so take that as a good sign.
Prediction: NC State 24, Virginia Tech 17
Will Stewart’s Take: I’m starting to hate writing this part of the game preview, because I know a lot of people just open the article, scroll down, and read this part. And this part has been making all of us look silly for several years now.
I wrote in Monday Thoughts after the ECU game that I was going to pick the Hokies to beat Pitt, lose to NC State, and then lose at Miami. In the larger context, I wrote that the Hokies were starting to look like a .500 football team to me, and I laid out some W-L predictions that had the Hokies ending up 6-6. And that was with a win over Pitt. Hmmm.
Things have looked really grim in the last two weeks. Virginia Tech looked like a bad defensive football team against ECU, and then the offense joined in against Pitt. And you find yourself asking, “Can it get much worse?”
I don’t know. But until the Hokies show me some evidence that they have shifted momentum back in the other direction …
Will’s Prediction: NC State 24, Virginia Tech 17
(Remember … I do my picks without reading Chris’ pick first)
Who will win the Virginia Tech-NC State game?
- Virginia Tech by 1-9 (26%, 438 Votes)
- Virginia Tech by 10-19 (7%, 123 Votes)
- Virginia Tech by 20+ (3%, 50 Votes)
- NC State by 1-9 (27%, 453 Votes)
- NC State by 10-19 (29%, 487 Votes)
- NC State by 20+ (6%, 103 Votes)
- I dont know/no opinion (2%, 38 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,692