5 Questions: NC State-Louisville

Here are five questions for NC State as they look to end the 2011 season with a Belk Bowl victory over Louisville.

1. Can the Pack defense make Teddy Bridgewater one dimensional?

The Cardinals ranked 102nd in the nation in yards per carry and 53rd in the nation in yards per pass attempt, which might lead you to believe the key to stopping them will be shutting down the passing attack. But the key for the Pack will be as simple as keeping Teddy Bridgewater in the pocket.

Bridgewater is not a bad passer by any stretch, but the Pack's zone scheme is at its best when it can sit back and bait an opposing quarterback into making poor decisions. If Bridgewater is able to get out of the pocket and break down the defense, he'll be able to make big plays with both his legs and his arm. Big sacks are great plays, but the Pack should be more focused on keeping Bridgewater reigned in than putting him on the ground.

2. Can Tony Creecy and James Washington gain consistent yardage?

Louisville is an excellent team when it comes to stopping the run, ranking 10th in the nation in yards per carry allowed. Meanwhile the Pack is one of the worst running teams in the nation from the same standpoint, barely cracking three yards a rush.

Much in the same way that the Pack defense will be trying to keep Bridgewater in the pocket and force Louisville to throw the ball, Louisville will try to stuff the running game and turn the Pack into a pass-only offense. The Pack has to try to establish some kind of ground game in order to give Glennon some breathing room and keep the Louisville pass rush out of his face all night.

3. Can the Pack win the turnover battle once again?

In every Pack win this season, the team won the turnover battle. In every Pack loss this season, it either lost the turnover battle or broke even. Sometimes football is just that simple. More than anything else, the key to the Pack's defensive success in the final weeks of the season was coming up with the big turnover. The defensive line getting healthy finally allowed the Pack to pressure the quarterback – leading to sacks, fumbles and interceptions.

The Pack ended the season with a +14 turnover margin, the fifth best in FBS football. If they can up that margin another few notches, history says they will come out on top.

4 Can Mike Glennon pick up where he left off?

The Pack finished the season by going 5-2 over its last seven games, but that stat hides a tough three-game stretch for Glennon against Florida State, North Carolina and Boston College. In those three games Glennon threw for one touchdown and four interceptions while the Pack went 1-2. But the junior quarterback rebounded by putting together two of his best performances of the season to close out the year – in wins over Clemson and Maryland, Glennon threw for 559 yards and eight touchdowns.

Glennon's play over those final two games is a big reason why the Pack is preparing for a bowl game today and not watching bowl season on television. Glennon's decision-making and poise in the pocket are the keys to his success tonight – if he can stay upright and not have to scramble the Pack should be in good shape. His receiving crew could also help him out by catching the ball and making some plays after the catch to get extra yardage.

5. Which team will be more excited to be on the field?

Bowl games are several weeks removed from the regular season, and in that time the players have gone through exams, the holidays and a couple of weeks of practice. The week leading up to the game is spent in a different city, participating in an array of bowl sponsored events and promotions. Teams and players are out of their regular season routine entirely.

With all the distractions that lead up to a bowl game, the difference between winning and losing can be as simple as who wants it more. If the Pack can get on the board early and get a stadium full of its own fans excited, it should have no trouble keeping up its energy level and focus for all 60 minutes. The concern has to be another slow start that drags down the atmosphere and allows Louisville to gain confidence early.


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