The Wolfpacker game predictions: NC State at Wake Forest
After its second and final bye of the season, NC State football (4-3, 1-2 in ACC) will travel to No. 22/23 Wake Forest (6-1, 2-1 in ACC) for a noon kickoff Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The Pack is more than a touchdown underdog against the Deacons, who have made a strong case for being the second best team in the ACC behind national title contender Clemson.
Can NC State pull off an upset? The Wolfpacker staff makes their guesses.
My optimistic prediction for a win at Boston College two weeks ago proved to be a clunker, and watching that game unfold left me with a feeling that, simply put, this might not be NC State's year.
That happens sometimes, even to the very best of programs. In 2015, Notre Dame went 10-3 and nearly finished in the top 10 of the polls. In 2017, the Irish was 10-3 again, and again just outside the top 10 (11 in each poll). In 2018, ND went 12-1 and earned a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
You may noticed I skipped 2016. That year head coach Brian Kelly's squad went 4-8. Given that the Fighting Irish was a combined 32-7 in the other three years from 2015-18, I doubt talent was an issue. It, more than likely, was just not Notre Dame's year.
NC State obviously has a much smaller margin for error than those Notre Dame teams. When you combine the youth, inexperience and unstable QB situation of this Pack squad with few breaks going their way, and you have what has transpired thus far in four games against Power Five teams: a 1-3 record with the three losses all by at least 17 points.
So could that mean that perhaps in a year where things are not going in NC State's favor, it could pull, essentially, a "Wake Forest" on Wake Forest? NCSU fans know what I am talking about. Wake has a habit of being that perennial thorn in NC State's side, especially in Winston-Salem. The Pack is 2-9 in its last 11 games there, and that includes two losses when State was ranked 14th (2003) and 19th (2017).
NC State has five quarterbacks in the NFL, four of them now starting. Collectively those pro QBs went 2-7 against the Deacs in Winston. Three of them (Russell Wilson, Mike Glennon and Ryan Finley) never won there.
But now the shoe may be on the other foot. Wake is the team that is ranked and with big aspirations. Weird stat: NC State has never lost in three games to a ranked Wake Forest opponent. An ever weirder stat: Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson is winless in seven games after bye weeks during his six years with the Deacons, including its one loss earlier this season when Louisville won a 62-59 shootout.
So can NC State pull a "Wake Forest" on Wake Forest? Not when things are simply not going your way. I have the Deacons winning 34-21.
Week 1 vs. ECU — Prediction: 34-17 NC State; Actual: 34-6 NC State
Week 2 vs. WCU — Prediction: 51-10 NC State; Actual: 41-0 NC State
Week 3 at WVU — Prediction: 20-14 NC State; Actual: 44-27 West Virginia
Week 4 vs. Ball State — Prediction: 38-27 NC State; Actual: 34-23 NC State
Week 5 at Florida State — Prediction: 34-24 Florida State; Actual: 31-13 Florida State
Week 6 vs. Syracuse — Prediction: 30-27 NC State; Actual: 16-10 NC State
Week 7 at Boston College — Prediction: 24-21 NC State, Actual: 45-24 Boston College
NC State has been playing two games at once this season, in many ways.
What does that mean? There is the actual game obviously, but maybe most importantly in the big picture, there is the "other" contest. That is finding a quarterback to step up and emerge to give the program hope moving forward.
All eyes will be on redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Leary to see if he has the poise and decision making to engineer the Wolfpack offense. The quarterback position is much more than just the final stats. NC State also has other issues to work on, but finding a quarterback of the future is at the top of the list.
To that end, I still think Wake Forest will have too many offensive weapons for NC State, even if reserve quarterback Sam Hartman is under center. By backup quarterback standards, Hartman is pretty good due in part to being the Demon Deacons' former starter last year.
If redshirt junior quarterback Jamie Newman comes back from his injury, and he might, then the task at hand becomes more difficult. Few quarterbacks from the state of North Carolina — he attended Graham High — have improved in a short period of time like Newman. He got his chance against NC State last year, and hasn't look back. He has far exceeded his Rivals.com three-star prep ranking.
If Newman plays, I predict Wake Forest wins 31-20, with the game a little bit closer if Hartman is under center.
Week 1 vs. ECU — Prediction: 38-17 NC State; Actual: 34-6 NC State
Week 2 vs. WCU — Prediction: 48-3 NC State; Actual: 41-0 NC State
Week 3 at WVU — Prediction: 27-10 NC State; Actual: 44-27 West Virginia
Week 4 vs. Ball State — Prediction: 27-17 NC State; Actual: 34-23 NC State
Week 5 at Florida State — Prediction: 27-24 Florida State; Actual: 31-13 Florida State
Week 6 vs. Syracuse — Prediction: 26-19 NC State; Actual: 16-10 NC State
Week 7 at Boston College — Prediction: 27-24 NC State, Actual: 45-24 Boston College
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