NC State Offense vs. Central Michigan Defense
NC State is tied for 105th in the nation in most penalties and 97th in penalty yards. The Pack is averaging eight penalties per game and many of those have been of the pre-snap variety. After a fairly clean game against Louisiana Tech, State has been mistake prone the last two weeks and that's a trend they have to curtail.
Some of the issues have come as a result of so many pre-snap shifts. This is an issue that should likely resolve itself as players become more accustomed to a new offense. However, the Pack is not at a point offensively where they can consistently overcome first and 15 or third and long because of mental mistakes.
On paper State has a decided advantage on offense but they simply can't afford to make themselves predictable with long down and distance situations. The Pack is at its best when they can at least present the threat of a run and force defenses to decide which they want to try to take away.
The Pack has been excellent catching the football and turnovers have not been a major issue although there were too many against Richmond. However, for the most part State has done a good job of protecting the football and have to continue that against Central Michigan.
PREPARE FOR PRESSURE
Teams have not brought a lot of pressure against NC State this year. Most have rushed four and tried to force Pete Thomas to find receivers down field. However, Dave Doeren mentioned in his weekly press conference that Central Michigan is a team that's likely to bring pressure and in a variety of ways.
This will put pressure not only on the offensive line but also on the backs and Pete Thomas as they have to read where the blitzers may be coming from. One way to offset this is the short passing game and screen plays- something that plays right into the hands of offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The Pack has speed at the skill spots and if they catch the Chippewas in the right defense and can break a tackle, the potential is there for State to make some big plays. This is a game where the Pack could use misdirection or a reverse and try to catch Central Michigan out of position and take advantage of their aggressiveness.
RE-ESTABLISH THE GROUND GAME
If you look at the big picture, NC State's run game has been fairly effective but the honest truth is much of that has come via smoke and mirrors. The Pack's most effective run plays have come out of the wild cat or on jet sweeps. While those yards count too, you can't ignore the fact that State has struggled to consistently get its running backs going.
Matt Dayes is the Pack's leading rusher and he's averaging just over 47 yards per game. Clearly this is a stat (along with contributions from Tony Creecy and Shad Thornton) that State has to work on. Central Michigan is 93rd in the country in run defense so this should be an opportunity for State's run game to take a step forward. If State can get their running backs going then that makes everything else- passing game, jet sweeps and wildcat- that much more effective.