That makes Saturday's game against Boston College a must-win contest for the Pack. They simply cannot lose to one of the league's worst teams, even on the road, if they want to make a bowl game. The Eagles have been ravaged by injuries and Frank Spaziani has come under heavy fire from the fans – it seems unlikely he will coach another season in Chestnut Hill. This is a team in turmoil.
Let's take a look at the numbers.
Pack Offense against Boston College Defense
|Category||NC State Offense||Boston College Defense|
|Points per Game||25.9 (74)||26.6 (60)|
|Yards per Play||4.9 (102)||5.7 (72)|
|Yards per Pass Attempt||6.7 (79)||7.3 (76)|
|Yards per Rush||3.1 (111)||4.3 (67)|
|3rd Down Conversion %||40.6% (67)||41.4% (74)|
|Turnovers per game||1.8||1.1|
|Red Zone Efficiency - TD%||64% (47)||50% (18)|
Since coming off its bye week the Pack has posted 28, 0 and 13 points. On paper, this is the worst offense NC State has put on the field since 2007 – the Pack's first year under O'Brien. The defense has helped them overcome the offensive woes and allowed the Pack to go 2-1 over that stretch, but the offense needs to snap out of its funk.
Boston College might be the kind of match-up that helps them wake-up on offense. The Eagles are the very definition of mediocre in every area of the game – the only thing they've done well is stop touchdowns in the red zone. They don't generate turnovers, they don't stop the run or the pass and they all over 40 percent of 3rd down conversions.
The key for the Pack this week will be establishing a better ground game. James Washington ran for over 100 yards against UNC, but the offense as a whole averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and wasn't able to sustain long drives. The Pack needs its running game to pick up more first downs or at least put it in more short yardage positions so that Dana Bible can open up the playbook and get back to the vertical passing game that was so successful early in the season.
Pack Defense against Boston College Offense
|Category||NC State Defense||Boston College Offense|
|Points per Game||25.4 (52)||18.4 (113)|
|Yards per Play||5.5 (57)||4.8 (106)|
|Yards per Pass Attempt||7.1 (65)||6.0 (108)|
|Yards per Rush||4.0(56)||3.8 (78)|
|3rd Down Conversion %||39.5% (58)||38.5% (77)|
|Turnovers per game||2.8||2.0|
|Red Zone Efficiency – TD%||59% (61)||54% (94)|
It's amazing what one dominating defensive performance can do to your overall numbers, even this late in the season. The Pack jumped nearly 30 spots in yards per play and scoring thanks to its shutout of North Carolina. This feels about right as the defense has clearly improved since early in the season but despite dominating the Tar Heels still has its share of problems.
The good news for the Pack is that Boston College's offense is atrocious – the worst offense the Pack has faced of any FBS opponent to date. The only game in which they've had success was against Maryland, when they were able to pound the ball on the ground and score. If the Pack stops their running game there's very little chance that the Eagles will be able to consistently move the chains.
The formula that the Pack used to beat Virginia and North Carolina should work well here – stuff the run game and make the Eagles convert long third downs. The defense should be both confident and prepared going into Saturday – as long as they execute they should hold down the Boston College offense.
The road to victory
Boston College is, simply put, not very good. They are arguably worse than the Central Michigan team that the Pack faced early in October. But O'Brien still hasn't won a divisional road game in his tenure with the Pack, so nothing is certain.
On offense the Pack needs to establish a running game and then look to go deep. The Pack has had one play of more than 40 yards in the last two weeks, and needs to get more big plays out of its offense if it wants to score more points. On the defensive side of the ball the Pack needs to put Boston College in passing situation and not allow them to convert on third down. If the Pack does its job on Saturday, they'll leave Chestnut Hill one win away from a bowl bid.