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Marshall Thundering Herd vs. NC State Wolfpack Preview and Prediction

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Two teams coming off of hard-fought contests will meet in Raleigh on Saturday as NC State plays its home opener against Marshall.

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The Wolfpack dropped their opener in Charlotte to South Carolina, 35-28, as quarterback Ryan Finley's final pass into the end zone was knocked away. Marshall was on the other end of that spectrum, as the Thundering Herd were able to knock down a pass as time expired to beat Miami (Ohio) 31-26.

The Thundering Herd will look to collect their first win over an ACC school since beating Maryland in the 2013 Military Bowl and their first win over a Power 5 team since beating Purdue to open the '15 season. After being labeled as a sleeper in the ACC coming into the year, NC State will look to avoid its first 0-2 start in a decade.

Marshall at NC State

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network

Spread: NC State - 24.5

Three Things to Watch

1. NC State at the skill positions

With a season that began with high expectations, only to result in a Week 1 loss, NC State has concerns, but the offensive skill positions are not one of them. Although the Wolfpack lost to the Gamecocks in Charlotte, NC State is quietly loaded with playmakers for Finley to throw to. During the Week 1 loss, NC State put up 504 yards of offense.

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In addition to versatile tight end Jaylen Samuels, who caught 15 passes and finished with 94 yards of total offense last week, nine different players caught a pass and four finished with at least 60 yards of total offense. Nyheim Hines, a converted wide receiver, shined in his debut at running back with 113 total yards and a score. Sophomore wide receiver Kelvin Harmon finished with 10 catches for 114 yards in the loss. Against a Marshall team that allowed 429 yards, the Wolfpack could be in for a big day on offense.

2. The Marshall offensive line vs. the NC State defensive line

There are a lot of places where NC State looks to enjoy a mismatch against Marshall, but the biggest area may be in the trenches. Although the Wolfpack managed just two sacks last week in the loss to South Carolina, they are loaded up front. Defensive tackle B.J. Hill is a load in the middle, while the end combination of Bradley Chubb and Kentavius Street is quite the duo.

Marshall did a decent job up front when it came to pass protection against the RedHawks in Week 1, but the offensive line got little push. The Thundering Herd ran the ball for fewer than 60 yards and averaged just 2.4 yards per carry. NC State allowed just 1.5 yards per carry last week. If the Thundering Herd are unable to keep NC State honest, Herd QB Chase Litton will be under constant duress. He simply isn't the quarterback that South Carolina's Jake Bentley is. The Marshall offensive line starts two juniors and a senior, but sophomore center Levi Brown is the best player up front for the Herd.

3. Special teams

If there is one place where Marshall should have the advantage over NC State on Saturday night, it will be in the kicking game. In the opening victory over Miami, Keion Davis returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns, while specialist Kaare Vedvik averaged 49 yards per punt and made his only field goal attempt.

For NC State, the kicking woes from last season carried over into the early parts of this year. Kicker Carson Wise missed a 29-yard field goal late in the first half. Like Miami against Marshall, NC State also allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown last week. For all of those woes, Wolfpack punter A.J. Cole is one of the best in the ACC.

Final Analysis

After losing to South Carolina in a game in which NC State more than doubled the Gamecocks' offensive production, the seat in Raleigh for head coach Dave Doeren is starting to warm, and losing to Marshall would do him no favors. In the eighth year under head coach Doc Holliday, Marshall is a well-coached program with a proud tradition, but the Herd needed three non-offensive touchdowns to squeak past Miami (Ohio) at home last week. With all the mistakes that the Wolfpack made last week, it's unlikely that they serve as their own worst enemy again. For the Thundering Herd to pull off the upset, they'll need the Wolfpack's cooperation.

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Prediction: North Carolina State 48, Marshall 17

— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the editor of The Daily Nole. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook and follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.