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.
On offense, it’s a battle. Will an offense not proven to be able to pass with Ben DiNucci be able to open the field with passes over the middle and down the field against a weak secondary? Let’s hope. If not, and I can’t believe I am getting ready to say this, it’ll be time for Kenny Pickett to take the reign’s.
I like for Ra-Ra Lopes to have a monster game and, if able to bounce back from getting verbally blasted by Narduzzi, Aaron Mathews, too. Really, it all depends on who is behind center, and something tells me it won’t take long for Pickett to be able to find the field. Just a hunch.
I can’t wait to read your predictions in the comments section; and here’s to hoping for a very Pitt-like win against a ranked opponent we have no business being on the field with.
I have to say I agree with most of what Chris wrote. However I do think we have “business being on the field with” NCS and have a chance of beating them. But we have a lot of things going against us in this game – and I fear also for the rest of the games on our schedule.
First off there will be no ‘home field’ advantage due to the crowds or Homecoming energy, no matter what the Pitt administration does to generate it. We may not crack 20,00 asses in the seats and if NCS scores first – which I’d bet a beer on them doing – it will quickly shut up any fans who might have the ‘energy’ to cheer.
Sad to say this is what a losing season does to a program – and this is and will be a losing season.
Here is a national ranking comparison between the two school at this moment. What jumps out to me in a dramatic way is the scoring differential.
Yards per play is another category that shows the problems we have on offense. Pittsburgh Sports Now has a great preview of the game written by Francis Guarnieri. He loads up the piece with good writing and a load of statistics – some of which I will borrow here… but jump over to that article and read it also please – it is full of good and interesting insights.
For me this game, if we are to win, our special teams ace Quadree Henderson has to shake off whatever ills has befallen him and return to form. Because of Henderson’s poor play – and it has been poor across the board given the expectations we had – up to now our most valuable players have been Alex Kessman with his field goals and Ryan Winslow with his booming punts.
If we want to keep this game close so that we have a shot to win in the 4th quarter, which we did well in the Syracuse game, then we’ll have to win the field position battle on the change of possessions. It is the things not usually recognized that we have to excell at this week.
I do not think our offense will be able to created sustained drives all afternoon – so we’ll have to get a few big plays on both offense and defense and hope that we can sore at least FGs on every other possession or so. What we cannot do is get into a scoring duel where we get FGs and the opponent answers with TDs as we saw the last week.
The only chance we really have to win in my opinion is 1) if our defense plays its best game of the year and 2) if we create and take advantage of turnovers – not just getting them but actually scoring after we take possession. Those two items plus the superb special teams play may just be enough to squeak out a win…
But I don’t feel it this week so I’m calling:
NCS 35 – Pitt 20