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The Wolfpacker predictions: NC State at Pittsburgh

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No. 20 NC State is aiming to keep the good times rolling. Can it do so at struggling Pittsburgh?

The Wolfpacker editors Matt Carter and Jacey Zembal offer their predictions on how the game will turn out:

Matt Carter

Sometimes diving into the X’s and O’s of football may be too complicated. Could it be as simple as going with Tuffy on the helmet? When it comes to sports, yes I can be that superstitious, and NC State is 4-0 when wearing Tuffy on white, gray or black helmets.

Of course, there are plenty of other reasons why NC State should beat Pittsburgh that have nothing to do with superstitions and everything to do with personnel. The Panthers are replacing an NFL quarterback, an all-time great running back and an offensive coordinator, and that has shown thus far this year.

The Panthers struggle to run the football (No. 108 in the Football Bowl Subdivision), and it's unlikely that will change against NC State, which possesses the No. 8 run defense in the FBS. That will put a lot on the shoulders of second-string quarterback Ben DiNucci, who will start for the injured Max Browne.

Couple that with a Pitt defense that is ranked No. 108 nationally in the FBS and can be equally susceptible to the run or pass, and NC State should win so long as it takes care of the football, does not give up big plays in special teams and brings the energy in what could be a lethargic atmosphere in a pro stadium with a noon kickoff.

Plus the power of Tuffy is behind them.

Prediction: NC State 34, Pittsburgh 17

Jacey Zembal

Pittsburgh boasts a rich football heritage.

Names like tight end Mike Ditka, running back Tony Dorsett, defensive end Hugh Green, quarterback Dan Marino, and offensive linemen Jimbo Covert and Bill Fralic roll off the tongue in college football lore.

The Panthers were among college football’s best in the 1970s and 1980s at various points. The sledding is harder in the modern era, but Pittsburgh has settled in as a solid program, capable of winning six to eight games a season.

In fact, third-year head coach Pat Narduzzi has gone 8-5 the last two years. Narduzzi seems to have settled down the coaching carousel that kept occurring with the Pitt head coaching job nearly every offseason since Dave Wannstedt was let go in 2010 (the last Pitt coach to win 10 games, in 2009).

Pittsburgh’s recruiting likely suffered during that stretch of Todd Graham leaving in 2011 to Arizona State and Paul Chryst going back to Wisconsin in 2014. The Pittsburgh team that NC State faces Saturday simply doesn’t have the talent of the past, plus it is going with a backup quarterback .

The Panthers are going through a transition stage at offensive line, wide receiver, quarterback, defensive line and linebacker. That is a lot of position groups. On paper, NC State should shred Pitt.

Prediction: NC State 38, Pittsburgh 13

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