The Road to Charlotte: Game 8: N.C. State

NoleDigest looks at N.C. State in this installment of The Road to Charlotte.

The game last year between Florida State and North Carolina State was a shoot out in every sense of the word. The teams traded scores throughout the first 3 quarters before the Wolfpack went up late 42-38. The Seminoles were able to answer with a little more than a minute left when Bert Reed scored from 3 yards out, leading the ‘Noles to the 45-42 win.

This year Tom O'Brien enters the season with some question marks. There was a lot of promise when O'Brien came from Boston College, but N.C. State hasn't found the success that they figured they'd have under their current head coach. The past 3 season have ended in losing records, and there are some lingering questions entering the 2010 season.

OFFENSE: Last year Russell Wilson killed FSU's defense, passing for 349 yards and 5 touchdowns. Wilson returns this year and is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NCAA. Wilson is a true dual-threat quarterback as he is better than people think on his feet, but he truly creates more havoc with his arm. Back-up Mike Glennon is one of the better back-ups in the ACC this year so he'll provide some quality depth if Wilson were to go down with an injury.

There isn't a wealth at running back for the Wolfpack in 2010. N.C. State has had a strong unit the past several years, but this segment has a lot of inexperienced players. Curtis Underwood and James Washington look to be the primary ball carriers at this stage. Walk-on Travis Leggett led the team in the spring, and Brandon Barnes went down with an injury before the season started.

Jarvis Williams and Owen Spence return at wide receiver and they'll be Wilson's primary targets. After those two it is up in the air as to who'll contribute in 2010.

The off-season arrest of Jake Vermiglio hurts their depth up front as he was one of two returning offensive linemen. Camden Wentz, Andrew Wallace and Zach Allen will be first time starters in 2010.

DEFENSE: There were will be a lot new faces on defense for N.C. State, especially up front as all 4 starters from last year are gone. Defensive tackles J.R. Sweezy and Markus Kuhn's futures are in doubt as they were part of the off-season drug bust that included Vermiglio and a few others. Entering the season there hasn't been anyone that has stepped to the plate. This is a major area of concern.

The defense does get a shot in the arm with the return of Nate Irving. He missed last year after he was injured in a car accident. He and Audie Cole will need to be terrific in 2010 to help the front four.

If the spring was any indication the secondary will be in trouble in 2010. N.C. State quarterbacks threw for over 640 yards and 6 touchdowns in the spring game. Last year the secondary did not do a great job creating turnovers and they were susceptible to the big play. C.J. Wilson and Rashard Smith line up at corner and Brandon Bishop and Earl Wolff line up at safety. Look for young player to fill in the depth chart after the starting four.

What FSU must do to win: They have to shut down Russell Wilson. FSU's defense was terrible in 2009 but this year should be a different story. They did pick Wilson off twice last year, and they'll need to do the same this year. There are question marks all over both sides of the ball for the Wolfpack, so shutting down their lone true threat should be enough to win this game.

NoleDigest too early prediction: This is a Thursday night game, and traditionally it's not a good experience for FSU. There is a little part here that can see N.C. State winning this game as FSU has some questions on defense in their own right. Nonetheless, the Wolfpack don't have the bruisers at running back like Toney Baker to take some attention off of Wilson. FSU's defense should do enough to control that side of the ball, and Christian Ponder should have a field day picking apart the defense.

FSU 40 N.C. State 20

Predicted Record: 7-1, 5-0 in ACC

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