Here's The Deal … The ACC portion of the schedule kicks off with a couple of familiar rivals facing off. NC State will be making the I-40 trip to Winston-Salem to face Wake Forest for the 105th time, with both programs looking to get an early jump on the rest of the Atlantic Division.
The Wolfpack was fortunate to have opened against the Big South's Liberty, which was unable to capitalize on its sloppy performance. State survived, 43-21, on the effort of an opportunistic defense, but understands it'll need to execute far better in order to win a conference game on the road.
The Demon Deacons will have more than just NC State to contend with on Saturday... they'll be looking to get past Thursday's demoralizing collapse in the Carrier Dome. Wake blew a 15-point fourth quarter lead before falling to favored Syracuse, 36-29, in overtime. Adding insult to, well, injury, sparkplug quarterback Tanner Price will spend the week trying to get his sprained knee close enough to 100% so that he can suit up.
Why NC State Might Win: The Wolfpack's new-found offensive balance is going to cause problems for a Deacon D that yielded five touchdowns to Syracuse last week. The combination of Mike Glennon's tight spirals and the running of Curtis Underwood and James Washington will keep Wake guessing. Underwood is coming off a career-best effort, rushing for 114 yards and a score on only 14 carries.
The host must also pay special attention to the attacking, ball-hawking NC State defense. The Pack has a knack for flying all over the field and creating havoc; in the opener, it forced seven Liberty turnovers, including two picks from sophomore cornerback David Amerson.
Why Wake Forest Might Win: With a couple of extra days to rest, there's hope that Price will get the green light for this weekend. The sophomore was outstanding before getting hurt, dissecting the Orange for 289 yards and three touchdowns on 18-of-31 passing. When he's on, it allows WR Chris Givens and RB Josh Harris to operate at full speed. Givens was unstoppable in the opener, making seven grabs for 170 yards and two scores.
A rather ordinary NC State O-line will have its hands full with the quickness of the Deacons front. NG Nikita Whitlock, DE Tristan Dorty and LB Kyle Wilber all possess the get-off to flush Glennon from the pocket.
What To Watch Out For: Where was Wolfpack TE George Bryan in the opener? For the first time since the end of 2009, the Mackey Award candidate failed to register a catch in a game. Glennon needs to get on the page with his senior, who sports some of the surest hands on the roster. Plus, Bryan rates a significant edge over a group of Wake Forest linebackers that struggles in pass defense.
Demon Deacons P Alex Wulfeck would be well-advised to angle away from T.J. Graham, a dangerous return man who took one back 82 yards for a score over the weekend.
What Will Happen: With Price at full strength, Wake Forest wins its home opener. With the southpaw a little gimpy with a left knee sprain, he'll be an easier target for linebackers Terrell Manning and Audie Cole and the rest of the NC State defense. The Pack will continue collecting turnovers, giving short field opportunities to the offense. Glennon is poised to raise the level of his play in Week 2 following a marginal debut as Russell Wilson's successor.
CFN Prediction: NC State 27 … Wake Forest 23
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: NC State -2 O/U: 49.5