And NC State has a chance on Saturday to earn its first Atlantic Division title flag (or banner). A win over Maryland also gives the Wolfpack its best ACC conference record in nearly 20 years and propels them to the ACC Championship game – where they would play for a chance to win their first ACC title in 31 seasons.
This is a chance for Tom O'Brien and his team to put a permanent stamp on their legacy at NC State. If ever there was a time to leave it all on the field, Saturday is that time. On to the numbers.
Pack Offense against Maryland Defense
|Category||NC State Offense||Maryland Defense|
|Points per Game||32.7 (28)||21.5 (37)|
|Yards per Play||5.4 (67)||4.8 (19)|
|Yards per Pass Attempt||7.0 (62)||6.2 (23)|
|Yards per Rush||3.5 (100)||3.5 (23)|
|3rd Down Conversion %||43.5% (41)||39.3% (59)|
|Turnovers per game||1.7 (60)||2.1 (32)|
|Red Zone Efficiency||79% (88)||74% (19)|
The Maryland defense is one of the tougher, more balanced defensive units the Pack has faced off against this year. Yes, there stats are all cushioned by one of the easiest schedules in the conference, but the Terps defense can't be taken lightly.
The Terrapins are equally effective at defending the pass and the run, so there is no obvious attack strategy for the Pack offense. Wilson and the rest of the offense will have to take care of the ball though, because the Terps have made a living this year by turning over opposing teams – forcing more than two turnovers per contents.
The tipping point for the Maryland squad seems to be 25 points allowed. When the Terps have given up 25 or more points, they're 1-4; when they've held teams under 25 they are a perfect 6-0.
Pack Defense against Maryland Offense
|Category||NC State Defense||Maryland Offense|
|Points per Game||21.1 (34)||30.0 (46)|
|Yards per Play||5.2 (38)||5.3 (73)|
|Yards per Pass Attempt||7.2 (70)||6.9 (69)|
|Yards per Rush||3.5 (24)||4.0 (77)|
|3rd Down Conversion %||31.8% (7)||34.9% (98)|
|Turnovers per game||2.2 (22)||1.1 (11)|
|Red Zone Efficiency||80% (62)||87% (31)|
NC State's defense has continued to improve as the season has marched on, with the Pack moving into the top-25 in rushing defense and top-10 in 3rd down defense after its win over the Tar Heels last week.
The Maryland offense has struggled to move the ball both through the air and on the ground, but have found a play-making quarterback in freshman Danny O'Brien. With O'Brien under center, the Terps have survived by relying on their defense and making the most of their limited scoring opportunities.
Third downs will become especially important against a Maryland team that is both efficient in the red zone and rarely turns the ball over. While the Pack has been very good at creating turnovers, Maryland has been just as good at protecting the ball on offense. The Pack can't expect to win this game by forcing turnovers - it has to stop Maryland on third down.