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NC State Wolfpack vs. Louisville Cardinals Prediction and Preview

NC State Wolfpack vs. Louisville Cardinals Prediction and Preview

NC State Wolfpack vs. Louisville Cardinals Prediction and Preview

The last time NC State visited Cardinal Stadium, the Wolfpack were embarrassed by Louisville, 54-13. As the Wolfpack return to Louisville for the first time in two years, there will be a noticeable omission from the home sideline.

Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino was fired Sunday morning as the Cardinals are 1-8 against FBS opponents this season and winless in seven ACC games. Safeties coach Lorenzo Ward will be the interim head coach for the team's last two games.

Louisville leads the all-time series over NC State as they hold a 6-2 edge. In last year's meeting, the Wolfpack came out on top, 39-25.

NC State at Louisville

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 12:20 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: NC State -16.6

Three Things to Watch

1. A change for Louisville
Interim coach Ward said he is focused on salvaging the Cardinals' final two games rather than whether he will have the head-coaching job after this season. Whether or not Ward gets the job long-term, it will be a challenge to snap the Cardinals seven-games losing streak.

"When I spoke with the staff here yesterday, I told them this is not going to be about me, it's not going to be about them, it's going to be about what we're going to do for these young men for the next two weeks," Ward said.

Louisville ranks at or near the bottom statistically on both offense and defense in the ACC. In last week's 54-23 loss to Syracuse, Louisville got into a deep hole early and could not get out of it. They will look to get off to a better start against NC State this week.

2. Wolfpack bouncing back
With all the talk about Louisville this week, NC State has also faced some adversity recently. After getting off to a 5-0 start, the Wolfpack have lost three out of their last four games.

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Last week against Wake Forest at home, things went south in a hurry as the Demon Deacons scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter for the 27-23 upset road victory. Now it will be interesting to see how NC State responds to the first bit of adversity all season.

A 10-win season could still be in the cards for the Wolfpack. But quarterback Ryan Finley, wide receiver Kelvin Harmon and linebacker Germaine Pratt will all have to elevate their games from the last four weeks.

3. Louisville quarterback situation
Jawon Pass' sophomore season hasn't gone the way he or anyone that follows the Cardinals program would have liked. In 10 games, Pass has thrown for eight touchdowns against 11 interceptions.

Malik Cunningham played against the Orange last week, but he left the game after landing on his head and neck. Ward has still not announced a starting quarterback for this weekend's game against the Wolfpack.

Louisville co-offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway, who will call the plays for the last two games, will decide on a starting quarterback for Saturday's game against NC State. Pass has started nine of Louisville's 10 games this year, but he has finished only four of those nine starts. If Cunningham is healthy enough to play, expect the Cardinals to rotate him and Pass once again.

Final Analysis

Considering Louisville's offense and defense rank near the bottom of the ACC, it is hard imagining the Cardinals coming away with a victory against NC State. However, the Wolfpack haven't played well the last few weeks, and the Cards will be at home, so they may be able to keep things close.

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The key will be, can Jawon Pass or Malik Cunningham be efficient and not turn the ball over? If they can do that and the defense can contain Ryan Finley and Kelvin Harmon, the Cards could make it interesting. Maybe.

Prediction: NC State 37, Louisville 20

— 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.