AVOID THE MISTAKES
NC State is a double-digit favorite, on the road. Most believe they should be able to go to Mobile and defeat South Alabama. Offensively, what they cannot do is give the game away. They must limit mistakes.
The Wolfpack was terrific in their first road test, finishing with zero penalties and zero turnovers at Old Dominion. However, South Alabama is expected to pose a tougher test for the offense.
"They play every front you can imagine," said Wolfpack offensive line coach Mike Uremovich. "They play a three-man, four-man, five-man and run every pressure I've ever seen. We have to prepare for all of it. It will be a big challenge for us.
NC State has to avoid penalties, particularly pre-snap penalties that get them off schedule with down and distance. Penalties put stress on the offense, and they don't need that.
But really it comes down to playing clean. Make South Alabama earn everything. Offensively that means no turnovers, short fields, or bad penalties.
NC State leads the country in time of possession, averaging over 40 minutes possession per game. If that continues, South Alabama could be in trouble.
The Jaguars don't need a lot of time to score as they are a big-play offense, but they still need possessions. Look for the Pack to try and grind out drives and finish those drives with touchdowns, putting pressure on the Jaguar offense to be more efficient than they've been all season.
Because the Jaguars typically score so quickly, time of possession isn't that big of a deal to their success. On the year they are No. 108 nationally in time of possession, but that is a major positive for NC State. If the Wolfpack can't possess the ball, well that may not be a good sign because through three games they haven't been been a big-play offense.
How can NC State do it? By pounding away at South Alabama's defense with runners Matt Dayes, Shadrach Thornton, and Jaylen Samuels.
State ran the ball effectively against Old Dominion last week. In fact, they've been really good on the ground all year. South Alabama ranks No. 95 nationally in rushing defense, yielding more than 192 yards per game on the ground. If the Pack gets near that number against the Jaguars they're going to have a great chance at taking care of business because the expectation is South Alabama is going to focus on defending the run.
Dave Doeren mentioned this week that he expects South Alabama to load the box to try and limit NC State's rushing attack. If that's the case, the Wolfpack must be able to win in the air. For maybe the first time this season, there will be plenty of one-on-one opportunities for the offense in the passing game, and wideouts Jumichael Ramos, Jon Alston, and Nyheim Hines must win their share of battles.
Also, David Grinnage hasn't played a big role offensively, but this could be a game where he gets an opportunity to impact.
"There's a lot of packages that David's in, but we haven't got to a lot of them yet, unfortunately for him," said Doeren. "He's practiced well, and there's been a couple of games where he's been wide open and Jacoby didn't see him, he threw it to someone else. We still had a completion on both plays.
"His time will come. He knows that, and he has a great attitude about it."
Jacoby Brissett hasn't had to have a strong passing game just yet, but this might be a big game for the senior and the pass-catchers because of South Alabama's potential gameplan.