Two ACC Atlantic Division teams look to right the ship
Turn the page, right the ship, bounce back, forget it and move on: Pick your post-loss clichÃ© and apply it to either Boston College or NC State, because they all fit. Neither team played particularly well last weekend, so both will be looking to... well, you know.
For NC State (4-3, 1-2 ACC), the last two weeks have been extremely distressful in its own way. Two weeks ago, the Wolfpack barely missed out on a season-altering upset of undefeated Clemson, only to see it slip away late in regulation and in overtime of an eventual 24-17 loss.
Then, the Wolfpack were hit by the irresistible force known as the Lamar Jackson Experience, which resulted in a 44-0 halftime deficit and 54-13 beatdown courtesy of Louisville.
A demoralizing defeat, yes, but also totally excusable given the opponent and hangover from the Clemson heartbreaker.
Boston College dropped to 3-4 overall and 0-4 in the league with a 28-20 setback to Syracuse that could have been much worse, as the Orange outgained the Eagles by a 532-287 margin.
Still, there were some bright spots, as Boston College’s offense hit on a few big plays and the defense forced three turnovers. Despite coming up on the short end in the last 12 ACC contests, the effort level from the Eagles was still high, which is a good sign given all the negative results over the past two years.
But with the way the schedules play out down the stretch for each team, this is a game that is critical in terms of fighting for bowl eligibility.
Boston College at NC State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 29 at 12:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network
Spread: NC State -15
Three Things to Watch
1. Righting Ryan
NC State quarterback Ryan Finley - like everyone on his team - struggled against Louisville, but overall he's had a solid season, completing 125-of-199 passes (62.8 percent) for 1,508 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. All four of those picks have come in the last two weeks against two of the best teams in the country, so a lot of the focus for NC State head coach Dave Doeren and his staff will have to do with making sure Finley's confidence isn't too shaken from a couple setbacks on the road against great defenses.
2. Ground control
Both of these offenses will be pitting strength vs. strength when they attempt to run between the tackles. Louisville shut down NC State back Matthew Dayes, but with 682 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the season, his play can dictate the success of the Wolfpack offense. It won't be easy, as the Eagles, even without linebacker Connor Strachan (shoulder), who is again questionable this week, didn't allow much up the middle last week. For the season, Boston College is ninth in the country against the run. Even though running back Jon Hilliman (ankle) also is questionable, head coach Steve Addazio has to like what he sees out of redshirt freshman Davon Jones, who had 66 yards on 14 carries against Syracuse. The numbers don't jump off the screen, but he is an effective power back who can do damage, even against an NC State rush defense that ranks 13th in the nation.
3. Towles or Wade?
Boston College lost a good bit of momentum against Syracuse when quarterback Patrick Towles left the game with a hamstring injury. At the moment, the graduate transfer from Kentucky is still listed as questionable, which casts a little bit of intrigue on who leads the offense on Saturday. It may come down to a game-time decision. If Towles, who had a 75-yard touchdown run on a keeper against Syracuse, is unable to go, then look for Darius Wade to start. Wade has limited game experience but would have started last season if not for a broken ankle. This could be his chance to show the coaches that when Towles leaves, they can trust the offense with him.
Both of these defenses are pretty stout against the run, but NC State has been able to lean on the ground game with more success. And despite quarterback Ryan Finley's struggles over the last two weeks, he is a more reliable entity at this point than what the Boston College has at that position, which is still up in the air due to Patrick Towles' injury. Look for the Wolfpack to come out on top in a game that should be a physical confrontation in the trenches and in the run game.
Prediction: NC State 24, Boston College 13
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.