Eastern NC is still trying to recover from Hurricane Irene and here comes a category 5 storm in its wake. The NC State Wolfpack returned from Cincinnati last week with not much more than their uniforms. The Bearcats pretty much blew away everything else the Pack owned in a 44-14 domination. The NC State faithful are hoping this week won't be that bad. Here is the FTRS take on why it might be a lot worse.
There are three critical elements to any game: the raw talent of the two teams, the emotional factors, and the preparation/situational adjustments of the coaches.
What to look for with the raw talent:
When NC State has the ball, look for the Wolfpack to try to establish their passing game early to force Tech to commit LBs to pass coverage and expose the three man front. This is the only hope State has to get their struggling running game on track. Glennon is a good passer, but he is having protection issues and opponents have sacked him 14 times this season. When he has time, he is an accurate passer and has capable receivers. If Tech is able to contain State's passing game, this will be a long afternoon for the Pack. If Glennon can have some early success that forces Tech to soften their rushing defense, the State running backs will have enough room to gain crucial yards that take pressure off the QB.
It will be critical for Tech's three man front to get pressure on Glennon. They will need help from the LBs and the corners will have to play at their best. State will try to pass, pass, pass, and slip in runs to keep us honest. It will be very similar to UNC, but with more emphasis on passing.
When Tech has the ball, State will try to stop the run and hope Tech cannot hit homerun passes. I believe a defensive team has to stop the primary focus of any offense. You cannot let a team do what it likes to do while worrying about what it might do. That is the case in spades with Tech. Teams that have to commit their corners to the run will get killed by the pass. State has to hope they can defend the toss sweep and counter plays with their LBs. If the corners have to play the run, it will be a long day for my NC State pals. Tech will try to make the State LBs play the dive play and midline option. That will prevent them from shading toward the outside. If Sims starts gaining 5-7 yards a carry, or Washington breaks a few 10-12 yard keepers, the day will be ours. State will have to stop those plays. If not, the toss sweep will kill them while trying and the pass to Hill or Melton will bury them when they defend the sweep. This is all a tall order for State. They are severely depleted in the D-line and will depend on their LBs to fill gaps, not defend the sweep. I feel for the State corners as it could be a very long afternoon.
The emotional factors
The emotional factors of the game also favor Tech. This is sometimes overlooked, but teams do not like to lose on their home field. When it happens, they don't soon forget. Tech is still feeling the pain of the State win in Atlanta last year. Russell Wilson picked our defense apart for over 350 yards and it was an ugly afternoon. I think Paul Johnson also wants a bit of revenge in this game. He was passed over by State (a few hours from his hometown of Newland) and he probably was a bit offended. The State faithful were very critical of his offense and last season the boards were full of "Johnson has finally discovered he cannot win at this level with that high school offense." CPJ is a very proud man. Don't think he didn't notice.
The coaches' strategy has to be this:
O'Brien has to hope the extra two days prep are enough. He is playing with a weak hand after losing a number of players to injury and his team is emotionally down after getting embarrassed by Cincinnati. The D-line is at half strength and his top RB is out until who knows when. Discipline is not something you can teach in a week. The faithful are questioning why he was hired. He cannot let Tech get a two or three TD lead early. I think he will try to strike early with Glennon passing to Graham. Don't expect Stateto try to establish the run early except as a diversion. On defense, look for State to stack the middle in an effort to take away the dive play. If they can force Tech to abandon this option, they may be able to defend the sweep and gain a psychological advantage. They have to hope they can force Tech into 3rd and long situations to force passes they can anticipate.
Johnson will stick with the plan that worked so well versus Kansas. The NCSU D-line is over-matched and Tech will likely force them to play everything honestly. If Tech can execute with efficiency, the State talent deficit will be exposed right away. Don't look for anything fancy. Tech will run the toss sweep, midline option and dive play until the corners start cheating. Then the fireworks begin. Also, don't be surprised to see a counter play early to take advantage of State's extreme need to be aggressive.
Keys to the game:
For Tech, don't let State score early and get the crowd involved in the game. Don't let Glennon get comfortable in the pocket. Don't make unforced errors.
For State, the D-line has to make plays inside and allow their LBs to roam. Don't let Tech establish the sweep, thereby forcing the corners into run support. Glennon has to have protection.
I am predicting an NC State meltdown in the 3rd quarter, if not before. The score? Tech will win 56-17.