Saturday, September 28, 2013
3:30 pm (EST), ESPN3
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Central Michigan and NC State are meeting for just the second time ever, both looking for momentum before their respective league play continues. The Wolfpack is coming off its first loss of the year, a 26-14 home defeat at the hands of ACC powerhouse Clemson. Making the postseason, a goal of first-year coach Dave Doeren, will require a victory in this type of game. It's shaping up as a long year in Mount Pleasant for the Chippewas, a situation exacerbated by injuries to starting QB Cody Kater and star RB Zurlon Tipton in the opener. Central Michigan's lone victory was a three-point escape of New Hampshire of the FCS in Week 2.
Why Central Michigan Might Win: With the Wolfpack having problems on offense, Central Michigan might not need a lot of fireworks to get out of Raleigh with an upset. Redshirt freshman QB Cooper Rush has become increasingly comfortable in his new role, with plenty of help from All-MAC WR Titus Davis. Plus, RB Saylor Lavallii is coming off a career-high 144 yards in a loss to Toledo.
Why NC State Might Win: The Chippewas are having all kinds of issues on both sides of the ball, but especially on defense, where they've allowed 43 points per game against FBS competition. This should be the week that Pete Thomas throws his first touchdown pass as a member of the Pack. State also hopes to establish the run, even if it means finding new ways to get the ball in the hands of elusive WR Bryan Underwood.
Who To Watch Out For: A Central Michigan line that's yielded 13 sacks already will get tested again this week. The seasoned Pack D-line, led by DE Art Norman and NT Thomas Teal are capable of forcing Rush into forced throws.
- The Pack has a similar problem as the Chippewas in that it can't block. State is toothless at the point of attack, while Central Michigan is 17th nationally in tackles for loss. Linebackers Justin Cherocci and Shamari Benton have a penchant for fighting through blocks and getting into the backfield quickly.
- Second-year JUCO transfer Robert Caldwell has been a very pleasant surprise at middle linebacker thus far for NC State. He leads the team with 30 stops, and he had three tackles for loss in the Clemson game.
What Will Happen: A visit from Central Michigan is exactly what NC State needs before ACC play resumes. The Pack will mute the Chippewa offense with an underrated D, while its own offense locates a pulse, if only for a week. It'll grind out a win, aided by turnovers and a non-offensive score.
Prediction: NC State 31 … Central Michigan 10
Line: NC State -24 o/u: 52
Must See Rating: (5 Rush – 1 Dads) … 2
NC State Defense vs. Central Michigan Offense
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.
NC State Defense vs. Central Michigan Offense
Priority No. 1 for NC State's defense is to come out and squash any confidence or optimism that Central Michigan might have.
The Wolfpack could be playing without contributors like Darryl Cato-Bishop, but facing a pro-style offense that hasn't been extremely effective, the Pack 'D' should be able to start fast and make a statement.
Central Michigan comes into the game ranked No. 97 nationally in total offense (348.8 yards per game), No. 106 in rushing offense (109.8), and No. 109 in scoring offense (17.8).
It's not a prolific unit and is also playing without starting quarterback Cody Kater and starting tailback Zurlon Tipton. Tipton is a huge loss, as the senior entered the season with high expectations after rushing for 1,492 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. He is out indefinitely with an ankle injury.
Replacing Kater is redshirt freshman Cooper Rush, who will be making his third career start.
Again, it's an inefficient group that is inexperienced at critical positions... the Pack must come out and make a statement right away.
With Tipton out the focal point for the Wolfpack defense must be junior wide receiver Titus Davis.
He is ranked No. 2 nationally with a career 19.4 yards per reception average, so it's obvious that Davis is a big-time vertical threat. His career 72.0 yards per game average is No. 7 nationally.
Davis has been dynamic this season. He had his best game in the win against New Hampshire, totaling 184 yards receiving and two touchdowns, and he had 8 catches for 116 yards and another score versus UNLV. He currently ranks No. 3 in the MAC in receiving yards per game (101.2) and ranks ninth nationally in receiving yards (404).
NC State's defense will have their hands full with Davis, and they must know where he is at all of the time. Look for the Wolfpack to try and keep a safety over the top of Davis to prevent him from beating them deep, something that hasn't happened a lot this season, and they could choose to be physical with him off the line of scrimmage.
Either way, the Wolfpack must defend Titus Davis. They can't let him go off on Saturday.
WINNING THIRD DOWN
If there has been a major flaw defensively for the Wolfpack this season it has been on third down.
The Pack is allowing conversions 43.2% of the time on third down, which ranks No. 87 nationally. That's not good, and even worse, some of the conversions were on third-and-long... a down that is heavily in the defense's favor.
Success for the Pack will start by winning on first down and getting the Chippewas off schedule. The Pack needs to limit Central Michigan's run game on first and second down and force their young quarterback to make plays.
Look for State to try and apply pressure with their front four and allow their trio of linebackers to flow and make the plays. If Central Michigan is forced into long third downs consistently, it forces them to attempt to make plays they don't want to have to make. This will also open the door for potential turnovers.
Central Michigan has been just as bad converting third downs. They are rated No. 82 in the nation, converting just 37% of the time. Obviously CMU has had issues on that down, and NC State has to make sure it stays that way. This will obviously be a key down in the matchup.
NC State Depth Chart
NOTE: *- Indicates a player has redshirted a season.
|2013 NC State Depth Chart|
Thanks to NC State and Central Michigan Athletics for much of the information in this preview.