Central Michigan (2-3) at NC State (2-3) Oct. 8, 3:30, ESPN3
Here's The Deal … The 2011 season just keeps getting worse for injury-riddled NC State, which has to be wondering if a turnaround is even possible this fall. For the third time in three tries, the Pack lost a game to an FBS team, taking it on the chin from Georgia Tech, 45-35. The final score was a poor indication of just how superior the Yellow Jackets were at Carter-Finley Stadium. Making matters worse, the ongoing Heisman campaign of Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson, who used to call Raleigh home, has become a distraction for head coach Tom O'Brien and his players. Central Michigan is aiming to add to the Pack's woes in the schools' first-ever meeting.
The Chippewas head to North Carolina with no shortage of confidence after playing their best game of the two-year Dan Enos era. Without much warning, CMU snapped a three-game losing streak with a 48-41 upset of heavily-favored Northern Illinois in front of a pleasantly surprised home crowd.
Why Central Michigan Might Win: Hope in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. comes in the form of an offense that mercifully awoke in Week 4. In the surprise win over Northern Illinois, the Chippewas amassed 563 total yards and six touchdowns. QB Ryan Radcliff bounced back from a tough outing at Michigan State by throwing for 387 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. His preferred playmate was RB Paris Cotton, who ran for 110 yards, caught four balls for 115 yards and scored three times. Racked by injuries and consecutive blowout losses, the NC State defense could serve as an ideal venue for Central Michigan to parlay last week's outburst into the start of a trend.
Why NC State Might Win: While the Chippewas snapped their losing streak a week ago, their defensive headaches remain very much alive. Central Michigan has yielded at least 41 points in each of the last three contests, looking equally feeble versus the run as the pass. The Wolfpack ought to be able to capitalize, while venting a month's worth of pent-up frustration. The Pack is coming off a solid game on the ground in which James Washington and redshirt freshman Tony Creecy combined for 208 yards and a score on 32 carries. With more support from the backs, it'll reduce some of the pressure of being Wilson's successor for QB Mike Glennon.
What To Watch Out For: NC State did get some good news on defense last week with the return of lineman J.R. Sweezy. The senior all-star made his 2011 debut after sitting out the first four games with a broken foot. A tackle by trade, he lined up on the outside in order to reduce the chances of being chopped by opposing blockers. He played well, posting his first sack of the year, and will make everyone around him a little better. The Pack will need it on a front four that's been hit particularly by health problems this fall.
What Will Happen: After getting whipped in consecutive weeks by Cincinnati and Georgia Tech, NC State will not squander an opportunity to be the bully for a chance. The Pack will take advantage of the deficiencies on the Central Michigan by establishing the running attack before turning Glennon loose on play-action. Radcliff will pile up the yards through the air, but a return to his turnover-prone ways will stifle the Chippewas' ability to rally in the second half.
CFN Prediction: NC State 38 … Central Michigan 24
CFN's Take: NC State vs. CMU
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