Cardinals, Wolfpack get together in Raleigh with both teams taking aim at bowl eligibility
Louisville (5-4, 3-3 ACC) was rolled by the Miami Hurricanes 52-27 in one of its biggest losses of the season. That came just two games after being blown out at home, 45-10, by then-No. 3 Clemson. NC State (4-5, 1-4) also was embarrassed at home by Clemson last week, 55-10, and is mired in a three-game losing streak in which it has coughed up at least 44 points in each game.
Louisville and NC State are meeting for the 10th time, and the Cardinals own a 6-3 series advantage. However, the Wolfpack have won the last two meetings, including a 39-25 victory in Raleigh in 2017.
Louisville at NC State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Louisville -3.5
When Louisville Has the Ball
In its game against Miami, the Louisville offense got off to a rough start. The Cardinals were down 21-7 in the second quarter, and they weren't able to bounce back. Even when Louisville was able to gain yards on the tough Miami defense, the Cardinals struggled with penalties and stalled drives.
Micale Cunningham completed 12 of 18 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception before he left the game due to an injury. Not only was the Cardinals passing game unable to get anything going, but their rushing attack also suffered the same fate.
Louisville ran for 168 yards against Miami, which was their third-lowest total of the season. The Hurricanes were particularly tough against the run (104.8 ypg, 14th nationally), but NC State is also stout against the run.
In nine games, the Wolfpack have allowed an average of 133.1 rushing yards per game, which is 36th in the FBS. This should be an opportunity for Louisville running back Javian Hawkins to get back on track. Hawkins has rushed for 978 yards and six touchdowns, which ranks second in the country among freshmen.
When NC State Has the Ball
The Wolfpack ran into a buzzsaw when they played a Tigers team that certainly had something to prove after they were ranked No. 5 in the first College Football Playoff rankings.
Redshirt freshman Devin Leary struggled against Clemson as he completed 14 of 29 passes for 166 yards. Although Leary played against one of the best defenses in the country last weekend, he definitely needs to perform better this weekend against a Louisville defense that has been struggling.
The Cardinals rank 101st in total defense in FBS and 11th in the ACC as they're allowing 438.3 yards per game. Louisville is also allowing 41.8 points per game during ACC play, which ranks last in the conference.
This is good news for freshman running back Zonovan Knight, who was one of the few bright spots for the Wolfpack last week against Clemson. He finished the night with 139 rushing yards and NC State's only touchdown.
Both Louisville and NC State are looking to move closer to bowl eligibility with a win on Saturday. This appears to be a good opportunity for the Wolfpack to snap a three-game losing streak.
Louisville's defense has given up 133 combined points over the last three weeks, so expect NC State to use a lot of Zonovan Knight to help take pressure off of Devin Leary. Junior receiver Emeka Emezie and tight end Cary Angeline could also have a bounce-back week as well.
Saturday's game should be entering but the NC State defense could be the difference.
Final Score: NC State 37, Louisville 31
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
(Top photo courtesy of @UofLFootball)