The 2-1 Wolfpack travel to take on the 0-3 Cavaliers on Friday. Currently, the Wolfpack are nine-and-a-half point favorites, and the over/under on the game total is 47.5. With all of that in mind, here is our NC State vs. Virginia preview.
NC State Wolfpack Outlook
NC State is coming off of a commanding victory against VMI where the offense started to show flashes of life. Brennan Armstrong had 264 passing yards and a touchdown, while the defense and special teams both scored themselves. The offense still needs to show it can work the ball downfield against good opponents. Armstrong has been alright, but he struggled mightily against Notre Dame, completing less than half of his passes with three interceptions. However, the run game looks competent, and the win against VMI saw some players begin to hit their stride.
Highly touted transfer Brad Rozner now has five catches for 67 yards to go along with two touchdowns. Kevin Concepcion leads the team with 16 catches and 122 yards. Porter Rooks, Keyon Lesane, and Julian Gray all have been decent contributors. Still, the Wolfpack are only averaging 222 passing yards per game. The passing game has to work on being more efficient to succeed for the rest of this season.
On defense, the Wolfpack have been very good, but not great. The secondary came into this season expecting to be one of the best units in the country, and while they have been solid, there were struggles against Notre Dame. The team is currently only allowing 191 passing yards per game, but star corner Aydan White has yet to log an interception and only has one pass defense. Part of this is a reluctance from Quarterbacks to throw near him, but he still needs to make a larger impact.
Davin Vann has been great on the defensive line with two sacks. Payton Wilson leads the team in tackles with 33 and two tackles for loss. Wilson and Vann have been cornerstones for the defense, but other players need to step up. No other player has more than 15 tackles, and the defense has been plagued by large chunk runs. Suring up the linebacking crew and getting more pressure on the quarterback will be paramount for success as the Wolfpack enters ACC play.
Virginia Cavaliers Outlook
Virginia has not been good under head coach Tony Elliot. Currently winless, the Cavaliers will have their work cut out for them against NC State. The passing game has looked mediocre, and quarterback Anthony Colandrea has thrown four interceptions with only three touchdowns. The run game has been non-existent, as the team only averages 68 yards per game on the ground. The offensive production has come almost exclusively from three players. Malik Washington and Malachi Fields have eclipsed 200 yards already, and Kobe Pace has two touchdowns with 20.6 yards per catch. The Cavaliers will have to improve the passing game against a defense that does not provide many windows to throw into. In addition, someone will need to step up in the rushing game, as the team averages just 1.9 yards per carry on the ground.
On the defensive side of the ball, something big has to change for Virginia. The team is allowing 42.3 points per game, which is the third worst in all of college football. Defensive back Jonas Sanker is leading the team with 28 tackles, and Kameron Butler has four tackles for loss. However, a defensive back leading the team in tackles is indicative of a bad run defense, as the team allows a blistering 191 yards per game on the ground. The Cavaliers have to sure up the run defense if they want to compete with the Wolfpack.
The pass defense has been okay, but they have yet to produce an interception. James Madison tore them up for 377 yards, but they were able to hold Tennessee in check with only 106 and no touchdowns. For the Cavaliers to have a chance Friday, the pass defense will have to show up like they did against Tennessee, and the run defense has to be much better.
NC State vs. Virginia Prediction
Virginia needs a lot to go right and nothing to go wrong to be in this game. Armstrong and Robert Anae return to where they first played together, and Armstrong will assuredly bring his best. The Cavaliers’ run defense is just not good enough to withstand Armstrong’s physical running abilities, and the Wolfpack defense will not allow Virginia to score many points. Expect the Wolfpack to go up early and dominate time of possession with the run. Virginia’s passing defense may keep them in the first half, but NC State will create chaos for the offense.
Score Prediction: NC State-31, Virginia-10
Photo courtesy: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports