Why to watch: After getting on track at the expense of an FCS speed bag, NC State will look to take the same path to get over the .500 mark. The Wolfpack unleashed some pent up frustration last weekend, routing Murray State, 65-7, in a game that was over at the end of the first quarter. Was it a tease and the product of the competition, or is the Pack ready to meet raised preseason expectations? No one will really know until Pittsburgh visits Raleigh later in the month. Although Gardner-Webb has yet to taste defeat, beating Mars Hill and Western Carolina won't exactly prepare a team for an ACC road trip. The Bulldogs went 5-6 a year ago, ending up in the middle of the Big South pack.
Why Gardner-Webb might win: While the opponents have been suspect, the Bulldogs have gained a lot of confidence on offense. QB Stan Doolittle has multiple options at wide receiver, like James Perry, Jamal Patmon, and Nick Melton, who've all caught a touchdown pass. That's a problem for NC State, which harbors one of the ACC's worst pass defenses and is vulnerable over the top.
Why NC State might win: The visit from Murray State came at an ideal time for the Pack. After getting shut down by South Carolina, last week allowed the offense to relax and execute like it did toward the end of 2008. QB Russell Wilson is getting hot again, throwing four touchdown passes and extending his streak of passes without an interception to 293, second longest in NCAA history. Without much pressure from Gardner-Webb, he'll have all day to find top receivers Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams.
Who to watch: For the first time since returning from a two-year hiatus, RB Toney Baker looked like the hard-charging back prior to his serious knee injury. He ran for 74 yards and two scores on 12 carries, adding a 39-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass. NC State needs his 225-pound presence in the running game, which makes his effort Saturday night so encouraging.
What will happen: Considering Gardner-Webb almost upset Georgia Tech last fall, NC State would be wise to keep playing as if Murray State is still in town. It will. Tom O'Brien will make sure of it. The Wolfpack will feed off the momentum of its first win, getting another efficient, mistake-free effort out of Wilson and a couple more touchdowns on the ground from Baker.
CFN Prediction: NC State 37 … Gardner-Webb 13 ... Line:
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 1