Wake Forest at N.C. State
November 6, 2018
By Joe Nelson
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This week’s Thursday night ESPN game comes from the ACC Atlantic as Wake Forest and North Carolina State face off in Raleigh in a battle of schools just over 100 miles apart. While neither will catch Clemson in the Atlantic standings, this is important game on both sides and a rematch of a memorable game from 2017.
Matchup: Wake Forest Demon Deacons at N.C. State Wolfpack
Venue: at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina
Time/TV: Thursday, November 8, 7:30 PM ET ESPN
Line: N.C. State -17, Over/Under 69
Last Meeting: 2017, at Wake Forest (-2½) 30, N.C. State 24
Dave Clawson has taken Wake Forest to a bowl game the past two years but that run is in jeopardy with the Demon Deacons 4-5 with three games to play. This is the final game on the Atlantic side for Wake Forest as the final two contests are Coastal crossover games hosting Pittsburgh and playing at Duke. Wake Forest can expect to be an underdog in all three games and will need to win two of those three games to make the postseason.
Accomplishing that task has the added hurdle of quarterback Sam Hartman being lost for the season last week. With Kendall Hinton suspended and Jamie Newman injured at the start of the season, the freshman Hartman was thrust into the starting role from the opener and he has performed reasonably well with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Newman, a sophomore, will take over with 19 pass attempts under his belt in three games of the past two seasons. Newman is 6’4” and 240 pounds as his size will be an asset but the Deacons have not come close to matching the production that John Wolford brought to the team last season.
Wake Forest has a solid running game averaging 224 yards per game on 4.5 yards per carry with two 600 yard rushers, leaning on senior Matt Colbrun more in recent weeks. Newman has some mobility but the top player on the offense has been receiver Greg Dortch who has 69 catches for 846 yards while also providing a threat in the return game.
At 4-5 the best win for Wake Forest came in overtime in the opener at Tulane with the other victories coming against FCS Towson, Rice, and Louisville. Wake Forest played within seven vs. Boston College early in the season but has lost by double-digits in every defeat since. In ACC play Wake Forest is 1-4 while being outscored by 84 points. The Demon Deacons are 2-1 on the road this season however including getting the only ACC win on the road at Louisville.
N.C. State is 6-2 but with a lopsided loss to Clemson the Wolfpack also have a negative scoring differential in ACC play. N.C. State went into Clemson undefeated but lost 41-7 and then lost at Syracuse the following week. N.C. State did beat Virginia and Boston College at home and last week bested Florida State 47-28.
While it has been a down year for the Seminoles that was a big win for N.C. State and despite the 19-point final the Wolfpack were out-gained in the contest but benefited from two turnovers. N.C. State will be favored in all four remaining games as finishing 10-2 is realistic, with the program not reaching 10 wins since 2002 under Chuck Amato.
Dave Doeren has led steady success in Raleigh with now five straight winning seasons. The Wolpack have frequently played very light non-conference schedules and that will be no different this season, though in fairness West Virginia was on the September schedule but the game was cancelled due to the hurricane.
Expectations were grounded for this year’s team with very few returning starters from a 9-4 squad that won the Sun Bowl and finished 6-2 in ACC play. The one key player returning was quarterback Ryan Finley and he has delivered a productive senior season. Finley transferred from Boise State and is posting easily his best season with a nearly 68 percent completion rate for 8.5 yards per attempt. He has 16 touchdowns passes and just six interceptions while approaching 2,500 yards passing.
N.C. State hasn’t run the ball very successfully with Reggie Gallaspy leading the team with 554 yards and nine touchdowns but posting only 4.0 yards per carry and as a team N.C. State gains only 3.6 yards per attempt. The biggest contrast in the numbers between these teams comes in run defense as N.C. State is allowing 3.1 yards per carry for the 13th best mark nationally, with only Michigan State and Texas A&M allowing fewer net rushing yards this season. Wake Forest ranks 119th nationally in rushing yards per carry allowed this season, surrendering 26 rushing touchdowns.
Ultimately N.C. State should be at a significant advantage in this matchup but it is a possible letdown spot after a prominent win in convincing fashion over Florida State for homecoming. Newman also provides a challenging matchup physically with his size and preparing for a quarterback that there isn’t much film on can provide some surprises for a defense.
Last Season: N.C. State should have no shortage of motivation for this game after losing 30-24 at Wake Forest last season. Then 7-3, N.C. State was a slight underdog against 6-4 Wake Forest. It was a back-and-forth game with the score tied four different times after 0-0. N.C. State settled for a short field goal in the fourth quarter to knot the game at 24-24 but Wake Forest quickly answered but had the PAT blocked to lead by six. N.C. State went 71 yards on the next drive but Emeka Emezie fumbled right outside the goal line with about two minutes remaining. N.C. State got the ball back in the final minute and picked up a roughing the passer call on first down to reach the Wake Forest 31-yard-line. Finley was ultimately intercepted in the end zone as Wake Forest held on despite a 502-334 yardage edge for N.C. State.
-- N.C. State is 25-13 straight up but just 20-18 against the spread in this series since 1980, though winning and covering in four of the last six and each of the last five home meetings.
-- This is set to be the biggest spread in this series since N.C. State was -21 in a 38-3 win in 2010. N.C. State is 21-27 ATS as a double-digit home favorite since 1998 including a 1-5 run since the start of last season.
-- Wake Forest is 10-5 ATS as a road underdog since 2015 including going 6-2 ATS in the last eight instances as a road underdog of 10 or more points.
-- Under Doeren, N.C. State is 24-15 S/U and 18-21 ATS at home.
-- While under Clawson, Wake Forest is 9-17 S/U and 14-12 ATS in road games.
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