The Syracuse Orange (2-2) suffered a loss to LSU, but can take plenty of positives from that. Unfortunately for them, their next opponent -- the NC State Wolfpack (3-1) -- is coming off a strong effort of their own. State hosts Syracuse just seven days after defeating Florida State.
Since we’re certainly not Wolfpack fans, we went ahead and asked a fan about what to expect in this game. Will Thompson — who you should follow on Twitter -- from SB Nation’s Backing the Pack joins us to chat all about NC State. We’ve answered some questions over there as well.
Why is every ACC game between our two programs always terrible?
They certainly have been some real doozies lately, eh? With regard to last year, I think Eric Dungey had just gotten hurt prior to that game, right? Certainly that had an effect on last year's game, but this matchup has definitely been very #goacc-esque for some time now. Toss in the dreaded noon kickoff (where weird things tend to happen), and you get these odd game results.
What went so right vs. Florida State last week? Was it just James Blackman's inexperience? Or did NC State have a superior game plan up front?
In the beginning of the game, I think absolutely a combination of Blackman being a true freshman and the pressure NC State put on him certainly swung the momentum in the Pack's favor. As the game went on, Blackman was able to connect on some dynamite throws, but the defense still held strong. Without question, the plan was to force Florida State into making Blackman beat the Wolfpack, and I think they did a great job executing on that plan without too many instances of having to leave the secondary on an island.
I really, really think Blackman is going to be a special player for FSU — he has some sensational talent. Having to face Bradley Chubb and this defensive front in your first collegiate start is going to be a tall task for anyone.
Conversely, how did that game differ so much from what happened against South Carolina in the opener?
The biggest difference was NC State didn't shoot themselves in the foot right out of the gate like they did against South Carolina. The Pack dominated most of the game against FSU, and had a few hiccups towards the end that could have cost them the game but they managed to overcome them. The Pack was never able to overcome their mistakes against South Carolina, despite absolutely crushing them in just about every statistical category of the game.
Ryan Finley's never really set the world ablaze, but he's been a very steady and consistent passer. What's so great about his game in this offense?
Simply put, he doesn't make mistakes. I think you said it best -- he really is the steady hand of the offense, and helps keep the ball moving down the field. He's not going to wow you with some insane highlight real throws, but State really doesn't need him to make those kinds of passes. Just keep the chains moving, and he excels at that.
How can NC State's front seven exploit some issues with the Orange offense on Saturday?
They'll have to get some serious pressure on Dungey, which is not going to be easy. Syracuse's offense is predicated heavily on Dungey, so if they can limit his ability to scramble and force him into some off balance throws without bringing the house, that will favor NC State. But again, that's easier said than done. He's a tremendous player and Chubb and company will have their hands full trying to contain him.
Offensively, are there any strengths for the Pack that you feel match up favorably against SU's defense?
Much of NC State's offense relies heavily on Finley for the reasons I stated above, but the other important factor is the versatility of Jaylen Samuels. The fact that he's listed as a TE really is a misnomer; Samuels can line up anywhere on the field offensively, and can score from any of those positions. He caught a shovel pass from Finley in the game against FSU and easily turned it into a touchdown. He's also been featured in the running game a lot more lately, so I expect to see some more of that Saturday as well.
Who's an unsung player on your roster we should be on the look-out for this weekend?
What's really helped Samuels from being double teamed every game is the emergence of receivers like Kelvin Harmon. Harmon has been tremendous catching passes for the Pack, averaging just over six catches a game for just under 11.5 yards per catch. Also, Jakobi Myers had an incredible catch and run against FSU last week, blowing right past Derwin James in the process (which is nuts). Samuels rightfully gets a lot of the attention as far as NC State's offense goes, but don't sleep on the rest of the receiving corps.
Prediction time: Who wins this game and what's the final score?
For as long as I can remember, any time NC State has had a big win, they generally come out flat in their next game. They cannot lose their focus on Syracuse, who I think Dino Babers has trending in the right direction. The key to this game for NC State is limiting mistakes and to contain Eric Dungey from making big plays. I think we'll see another tremendous performance from Bradley Chubb, but I see this being a close one. I'll take the Pack at home, 24-20.