Wake Forest (5-4) at NC State (5-4) Nov. 10, 3:00, RSN
Here's The Deal: When Wake Forest and NC State renew their long rivalry in Raleigh, a spot in the postseason could be at stake.
After looking like an ACC Atlantic Division challenger following wins over Florida State and Maryland in October, the Wolfpack has been sliding rapidly. Back-to-back losses to rival North Carolina and Virginia have the program in a sudden tailspin. Last week's 33-6 loss to the 2-6 Cavaliers at Carter-Finley Stadium was an absolute shocker that pushed the reboot button on State's season.
The Demon Deacons have been fairly predictable this season—they handle the weak teams, and bow to the tougher ones. The last two weeks, as an example, the program was no match for Clemson, but doubled-up on Boston College. Bowl games are always a big deal for head coach Jim Grobe and his staff, and with a trip to South Bend up next, the hierarchy would like to secure win No. 6 as soon as possible.
Why Wake Forest Might Win: The Demon Deacons are catching the Pack at an opportune time.
NC State is a puzzling squad right now, which has been left searching for clues. Enter Wake Forest, an opponent playing some of its best defense of the year so far. It ranks No. 4 in the ACC in sacks, notching three in each of the last four games. The core of the pass rush is coming from NG Nikita Whitlock, DE Zach Thompson and LB Justin Jackson, who all have the speed and quickness to get by a troubled Pack O-line that ranks 114th nationally in sacks allowed. State has struggled to mount a consistent ground game, which means lots of third-and-long situations.
Why NC State Might Win: In the battle of the pass rushers, Wake QB Tanner Price will have bigger concerns than State's Mike Glennon.
Sure, the Deacons have goosed the pass rush lately, but it still lags behind the Pack's ACC-best sack unit. NC State has good speed at all levels of the D, generating pressure from as far back as linebackers Rodman Noel and Rickey Dowdy to as close in as DE Darryl Cato-Bishop and DT T.Y. McGill. Wake Forest, too, has had trouble running the ball, and has actually lacked consistency throwing it as well. Now Price must face a talented secondary that's headed by CB David Amerson, a likely candidate to turn pro early once the season ends.
What To Watch Out For: Wake Forest WR Michael Campanaro just might be the most underrated player in America.
When healthy, he's been unstoppable even though every in the stadium knows where Price is looking. A week ago, for instance, the junior hauled in 16 passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns to frustrate the Boston College defensive backfield. NC State offers an entirely different challenge, which could force Price to spend a little more time trying to find an open alternative, like WR Terence Davis or FB Tommy Bohanon swinging out of the backfield.
What Will Happen: Is NC State the team that handed Florida State its only loss or the one that was besieged by Virginia at home? Somewhere in the middle should be enough to earn that coveted sixth win for bowl eligibility.
After playing horribly last week, look for Glennon to rebound on Saturday. Campanaro will put up the biggest numbers among the receivers, but it'll be timely touchdown grabs from the Pack's Bryan Underwood and Quintin Payton that'll help provide the difference in a close game.
CFN Prediction: NC State 28 … Wake Forest 24
CFN's Take: NC State vs. Wake Forest
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