Byline: Chris Logue
#20 NC State at a Glance
Record: (5-1, 2nd in Atlantic)
PPG F/A: 35.5/23.7
Leading Passer: Ryan Finley (1770 yards, 10 touchdowns, 0 interceptions)
Leading Rusher: Nyheim Hines (100 carries, 513 yards, 5 touchdowns)
Leading Receiver: Kelvin Harmon (33 receptions, 434 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Jaylen Samuels (50 receptions, 425 yards, 3 touchdowns)
Jumping right into it, it’s a tough week to want the Panthers to make strides towards the future. Sure, we beat Clemson in the middle of feeling like it’ll be a scrimmage for the Tigers, but this Wolfpack team is a blend of good, really good and watch out before we run you over good on offense. I am actually more concerned about this game than I was leading up to Clemson on the road.
NC State is being guided by one of the very best quarterbacks in the entire country for 2017. Ryan Finley quite simply does not turn the ball over, instead, he chucks it downfield to a myriad of talented receivers. The kryptonite for the Pitt defense this season has been stopping the most athletic players on the field and in this game, they will have to stop one of the most dynamic players in the ACC and quite possibly the country.
Jaylen Samuels is as dynamic as they come, much like Steve Ishmael last week. Samuels, in conjunction with his three touchdowns as a receiver has five on the ground on just 25 carries. Samuels averages nine catches and four rushes per game, all being calculated attempts.
Throughout the week, Pat Narduzzi mentioned that safety Jordan Whitehead may have played too many snaps on offense, while seeing his production decline on the defensive side of the ball in the fourth quarter. Keeping that in mind, I think we see less of Whitehead on offense, keeping him as fresh as possible to be a flex-linebacker for the entirety of the game.
NC State on defense is almost smack-dab where Pitt was a season ago in terms of strengths and weaknesses. Dave Doeren has his rush defense ranked eighth nationally, only surrendering 90.7 yards/game and 3.06 yards/carry. Not a pleasant sight considering the circumstances of our rushing game.
Qadree Ollison and crew walk into the week 107th nationally in total rushing. Averaging a measly 116 yards/game and a woeful 3.32 yards on each carry. Is this the week we finally see AJ Davis make a push for more carries? Probably not, but let’s hope there’s a shift in ideology to get the young ball-carrier some hits.
What could be fun, however, is to see which pass defense that is actually worse. For Pitt, you like the fact that NC State is ranked 121st, giving up just shy of 300 yards/game. Also for Pitt, you wish that Max Browne wasn’t out for the season to take advantage of that, well, advantage.
Remember that time Mason Rudolph came to town and literally did whatever he wanted to this defense through the air? Well, enter Ryan Finley who could potentially replicate that production. As we know, Pitt generally stinks on defense in the third year of the Narduzzi era. Josh Conklin possesses the 115th overall defense against the pass, at 280.3/game.
Who knows, maybe Narduzzi and Conklin have something up their sleeve with the secondary. After all, Narduzzi came with the praise for Therran Coleman this week, calling him the teams clear third best corner. Still, I just don’t see a way that Pitt is able to make enough of a difference on defense to force this into being a close game, at least through the air.