NC State vs. UConn Week 1 Preview

NC State vs. UCONN

The NC State Wolfpack kick off the season by traveling to Connecticut to square off against the Huskies. Both coaches Dave Doeren and Jim Mora will look to start their seasons on the right foot. Most sportsbooks have NC State favored by 14.5 points, and the total set at 47. NC State vs. UConn will air on CBS at seven p.m.

NC State Team Preview

The Wolfpack will start 2023 with a lot of new faces, including a new offensive coordinator, Robert Anae. The Wolfpack offense was mediocre at best last season, and Anae brings along his former signal caller at Virginia Brennan Armstrong. While favored by two touchdowns, NC State will want to see just how Armstrong will fit into the Wolfpack offense. His 2021 campaign was strong, with 4,449 yards passing, but he struggled mightily in 2022 without Anae. The offense also needs to find its footing after losing its top two leading receivers Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter. However, running back Jordan Houston returns, and transfer Bradley Rozner looks to step into the lead receiver role. Houston had a solid season rushing for 544 yards and adding 213 in the air. Rozner is on the Biletnikoff award watchlist and had 10 touchdowns at Rice last season. The offensive line is experienced and expected to once again be strong, but not elite.

The defensive side of the ball is where the Wolfpack shine. NC State only allowed 19.2 points per game last season. Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has had massive success with his 3-3-5 style defense and is returning a lot of veteran production. Cornerback Aydan White dominated last season and did not allow a single touchdown while in coverage. Shyheim Battle is a solid and experienced corner opposite of White, and the two were a very difficult duo to score on. Payton Wilson will have to step up at linebacker after Drake Thomas and Isaiah Moore left for the NFL. Wilson had 82 tackles and 4.5 sacks. The key for the Wolfpack defense will be the defensive line, as the team struggled to get to the quarterback last season. Only Davin Vann eclipsed four sacks, so the team will need him to build on his 2022 campaign and need other linemen to create pressure on opposing signal callers.

UConn Team Preview

The UConn Huskies had a promising 2022 season, going 6-7 and getting into a bowl game. Mora’s first year at the helm was a drastic improvement upon a horrid 1-11 campaign in 2021. UConn excelled in running the ball but will have to really impress to beat a stingy Wolfpack defense. Six players amassed 100 or more rushing yards, highlighted by Victor Rosa‘s 636-yard freshman year. The Huskies averaged 191 rushing yards per game, but only 111 passing yards per game. The passing attack of Zion Turner needs to drastically improve, as he threw for only 1,407 yards and had a 57.8 completion percentage. In addition, leading receiver Aaron Turner entered the transfer portal, so the Huskies will have to find that passing game production somewhere else.

On defense, UConn is interesting. They allowed 26.2 points per game, which is very mediocre. However, they played fairly well against teams outside of the power five. Most notably, they did hold Boston College to only three points, and Mountain West champions Fresno State to only 14 points. Linebacker Jackson Mitchell was the highlight of the defense. Mitchell’s 140 tackles led the team, and he also added 4.5 sacks. The Huskies have to address the secondary. The pass rush was ok, but not great. Regardless, the secondary did get lit up by better passing teams. Outside of Mitchell, safety Durante Jones is the only other big threat. Jones had 97 tackles and forced two turnovers. For UConn to succeed, they need to find answers at cornerback and on the defensive line to give Jones and Mitchell some help.

NC State vs. UCONN Prediction

UConn is not a bad team by any means, and any team coached by Mora will be competitive. However, the Wolfpack just have more talent across the board, and the Huskies will not be able to put up enough points to beat them. NC State has only lost twice in the past two seasons when they hold opponents under 24 points, and the Huskies would be hard-pressed to find the end zone that much against NC State. On offense, the Wolfpack will control the ball with the run game. Anae will assuredly test Armstrong’s ability to throw early. However, when NC State takes the lead, they will grind the clock down and prevent UCONN from scoring.

Score Prediction: NC State 34-UCONN 10.

 

NC State vs. UCONN

Photo courtesy: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

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