Georgia Tech (4-0) at NC State (2-2) Oct. 1, 3:30, ABC
Here's The Deal … College football, by its very nature, is designed to make preseason forecasts look ridiculous. Georgia Tech, for instance. Coming off a disappointing 6-7 campaign, the Yellow Jackets appeared to be entering 2011 with more holes than Augusta National. Yet, just a month into the campaign, they're the toast of the ACC, winning four straight to rise to No. 21 in this week's AP poll. Last Saturday, they passed their toughest exam to date, withstanding an early and late challenge from North Carolina to hold on for a 35-28 prove-it victory at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
NC State resides on the other side of the tracks these days. The Pack has performed miserably in its two games against FBS teams, getting embarrassed by Cincinnati, 44-14, on national TV last Thursday night. Making the life of head coach Tom O'Brien even more hectic is the fact that the quarterback he failed to invite back this year, Russell Wilson, has led Wisconsin to a perfect start and a No. 7 ranking in the AP.
Why Georgia Tech Might Win: Head coach Paul Johnson's offense has been sensational through four games, leading the country in scoring and total yards. Yeah, Tech's output slipped a bit last week, but that was against a Carolina defense loaded with next-level talent. Injury-riddled NC State is nowhere in the same league as the Heels, as was obvious in Thursday's collapse at the feet of Cincinnati. For the Yellow Jackets, there's no singular star, but a ton of options, so to speak.
QB Tevin Washington has done a great job of running the show, even throwing eight touchdown passes to a single interception. He'll work with Orwin Smith, David Sims, Roddy Jones and Embry Peeples on well-times pitches. And when the Pack starts cheating up to stop the run, he'll go up top to find Stephen Hill, his resident acrobatic and homerun hitter of the receiving corps.
Why NC State Might Win: If the Wolfpack has any chance of stopping the Ramblin' Wreck, it'll have to be fueled by the offense. Tech has been just okay on defense, allowing at least 21 points in all four games. The Yellow Jackets have been a little leaky against the run, which should create some space for NC State running backs Curtis Underwood and James Washington. The rest will be up to QB Mike Glennon, who has been a disappointment so far. Wilson's successor has all of the necessary tools for success, including WR T.J. Graham, yet hasn't quite turned the corner. He'll need to use all of his weapons, including underutilized TE George Bryan.
What To Watch Out For: The Yellow Jackets D was spotty in September, but, boy, did it ratchet up the pressure against Carolina last Saturday. Tech got to Bryn Renner seven times, whipping a credible collection of offensive linemen. The catalyst was LB Jeremiah Attaaochu, who used his speed off the edge to get to the quarterback three times. Even surly defensive coordinator Al Groh had to be pretty pleased with his unit's effort against the Tar Heels. If the Jackets can maintain that level of defensive intensity, their chances for an ACC crown will rise markedly.
What Will Happen: This is simply a terrible matchup for NC State, which has been decimated by injuries along the front seven. As if stopping the Georgia Tech locomotive isn't daunting enough already, the Pack will attempt to do so with spare parts and out of position linemen. The Yellow Jackets will keep the train on the tracks, using their diversity and speed to run away from State without a lot of resistance. Once the deficit starts to balloon, the Wolfpack won't have the offensive pop or the fight to make things interesting in the second half.
CFN Prediction: Georgia Tech 41 … NC State 20
CFN's Take: NCSU vs. Georgia Tech
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