MAKE THEM GRIND IT OUT
The expectation is that Troy is going to run a spread offense that is built about a high volume of plays and an uptempo. NC State must come out and eliminate the big plays that offense can generate.
It's really that simple. Do not give up any big plays.
NC State has to force Troy to march up and down the field methodically. They can potentially get yards, and points in a hurry, and State can't allow them to do that.
Look for the Wolfpack to try and force Troy to score after extended drives, believing they can eventually get a stop or create a turnover.
WIN ON FIRST DOWN
Strong defense obviously starts on first down and this will be the most crucial play of each series of downs for NC State on Saturday.
Offenses like Troy become even more dangerous when they can gain positive yardage on first down. For a play-caller like Neal Brown, that will open up the playbook even more and that's not a good thing for defenses.
What the Wolfpack must do is limit the Trojans on first down to put them in obvious passing situations on third down. Troy will be running the Air Raid offense, but last year they passed on just 43% of the plays and probably don't have the weapons in place this early in the season to be extremely effective through the air.
For NC State it begins with slowing down the running game, which should be led by Brandon Burks, who led the team in rushing last season (584 yards, 6.1 ypc). Burks has had a really strong camp and will be tough to contain, and quarterback Brandon Silvers is a running threat as well (180 yards rushing, five touchdowns).
The Wolfpack's defensive front has to stuff the run early on... it's huge.
Again, first down is a critical down for NC State. If they can win on that down, it could be a strong night for the Wolfpack.
GET THE BALL BACK
At the end of the day, NC State is going to have to be able to force turnovers this season if they want to take the next step defensively, and that all starts on Saturday.
Troy comes in with a new offensive scheme... new philosophy on offense. They should improve as the season goes on, but chances are they won't be sharp in the opener. That's a lot to ask.
NC State has to take advantage of that. They need to play aggressive on defense and look to force turnovers... end the night early. How can they do it? Pressure Brandon Silvers and attempt to force him into incompletions and mistakes. Last year he was effective, completing 70.5% of his passes for 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
With that being said, he's in a new offense and will have more of a passing responsibility. Can he handle the load? That remains to be seen.
It's the season opener, and Carter-Finley should be electric at kickoff. The Wolfpack defense must play off the emotion of the fans and start fast.
NC State needs to come out and limit Troy's offense on the opening series, either by getting stops or forcing turnovers. Keep the crowd in it and play with passion, enthusiasm.
NC State is a double-digit favorite. The best thing they can do is come out early and stuff Troy on multiple series, putting doubt in the minds of the underdogs.