Louisville vs NC State: North Carolina State will host Louisville on Thursday night as a ranked team for the first time in a while, but the Wolfpack won’t be the favorite going in. The early lines out of Vegas have NC State as around a 2.5-point underdog to the Cards, which is not so bad given how last year’s game went down.
Heading into the season, the Thursday night clash this week in Raleigh was viewed as a possible trap Louisville vs NC State game. After NC State lost to a lackluster South Carolina team in the opener, that concern eased. And then after the Cardinals stumbled against Clemson, 47-21, concerns resurfaced.
Louisville vs NC State, the game is approaching, and it stands as a big one for ACC positioning, with both teams sitting at 4-1. Here are five things to know about NC State:
1. The Wolfpack was no match for Louisville last year
Surprisingly, the NC State win was one of the Cards’ most lopsided of the 2016 season. Louisville led after one quarter, 17-0, and at halftime, 44-0. After the Wolfpack nearly upset eventual national champion Clemson in Death Valley, the Cardinals humiliated them at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Playing at night on national television at home, Dave Doeren’s bunch should be hungry for revenge.
Then again, the Wolfpack have a huge deficit to make up.
Lamar Jackson scored on a 36-yard run on the third play from scrimmage last year. NC State quarterback Ryan Finley threw an interception on the fourth. Jackson threw for 355 yards and three touchdowns and left early in the blowout. NC State benched Finley in the first half. A similar cast of character is back for both teams. Will the result be different?
2. NC State is on a four-game win streak.
After the Wolfpack started the season with that loss to South Carolina, they have won four straight, most impressively a 27-21 upset of Florida State in Tallahassee. NC State is now 2-0 in the ACC heading into Thursday’s game, with a Nov. 4 home date against No. 2 Clemson looming.
Saturday, the Wolfpack took a 26-7 lead at halftime and then escaped, milking the final 4:39 with nine run plays. NC State played a solid game overall, holding the ball for more than 36 minutes and not turning the ball over.
3. Bradley Chubb is a handful
Last year, NC State’s star pass rusher ranked fourth in the country with 22 tackles for loss and 19th with 10.5 sacks. Chubb is off to an even better start this year, with 12 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in five games. He should be both an All-American and a first-round pick after this season.
Defense has been the problem for the Wolfpack in Doeren’s five years, but the unit has improved from 83rd in scoring defense to 65th to 52nd to 27th last year. NC State ranks 54th this year, but Chubb still leads a group that could give Louisville some trouble.
4. Louisville vs NC State weakness
When Chubb lets opponents get passes off, the Wolfpack have trouble defending them. A rough performance against Syracuse on Saturday dropped NC State to 116th in the country in pass defense at 284.8 yards per game. Jackson is throwing for 327.2 yards per game, and he’s only played five quarters in the past two weeks.
The Wolfpack have given every indication that they’re going to make it a close game under the lights Thursday, but if they can’t stop the vertical passing game, this matchup could look like last year’s.
5. Louisville vs NC State
The Wolfpack lost 10 in a row until they knocked off Florida State on Sept. 23. And they lost those 10 by 18.7 points per game, with eight coming by double digits and three by at least 30 points.
Louisville vs NC State: None was worse than last year’s drubbing in Louisville, and the Cards have had NC State’s number, winning all three times since they joined the ACC in 2014.