The NC State Wolfpack (2-0) and Marshall Thundering Herd (2-0) are back in action this week after seeing their matchups get cancelled last weekend due to Hurricane Florence. Both will look to close out their non-conference slates with an undefeated record before heading into league play next week.
The Wolfpack sleepwalked in their season-opening 24-13 win against FCS opponent James Madison before turning it on in Week 2 and cruising to a 41-7 victory over Georgia State. Quarterback Ryan Finley is off to a hot start with consecutive 300-yard passing games.
Marshall did not have it as easy the first two games, narrowly defeating Miami (Ohio) by a touchdown in the opener before putting together a better performance in the 32-16 win over Eastern Kentucky in Week 2. New starting QB Isaiah Green has been excellent in those two contests, completing over 60 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and just one interception.
With the over/under set currently at 54.5, and with the way both quarterbacks have performed through two games, we could see a high-scoring affair this Saturday.
NC State at Marshall
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: NC State -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Surprise starter for the Herd
All offseason, speculation centered around who Marshall's new starting quarterback would be after last year’s starter Chase Litton departed early for the NFL. Most thought that incoming Wagner transfer Alex Thomson would be the guy, but it was redshirt freshman Isaiah Green who ran out with the first-team offense on the opening drive of the season. Green has been excellent to start the year, completing over 60 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and averaging 275 YPG through his first two starts. This season marks the first time since 2011 that Marshall has started a freshman quarterback to open the season, with record-setting quarterback Rakeem Cato being the last instance. And according to head coach Doc Holliday, there are similarities between the two. “(Green) has a little bit of Cato in him,” said Holliday to the media. “He walks into different arenas and it doesn’t faze him a whole lot.” Marshall will need a Cato-like performance on Saturday if the Herd are to upset NC State.
2. All hands on deck
While much of the focus last weekend for NC State was making sure everyone was safe due to the hurricane, the week off did allow for some injured players to get healthier after being banged up early in the season. Starting wideout Jakobi Meyers was leading the country in receptions after Week 1 with his 14-catch, 161-yard performance against James Madison, but he missed the game against Georgia State due to injury. He is expected to return the lineup this week along with fellow starter Stephen Louis, who will be making his season debut. At tight end, the Wolfpack will regain the services of sophomore Dylan Autenrieth and USC transfer Cary Angeline, who had to sit out the first three weeks of the season. QB Ryan Finley will have his full complement of weapons to throw to on Saturday.
3. Containing Tyre Brady
In last year’s matchup between the two teams, Marshall’s Tyre Brady was unstoppable, finishing with a season-high 11 receptions for 248 yards and a touchdown. Brady, the former Miami transfer, is off to another high-flying start in 2018 with 15 catches for 182 yards and three touchdowns in two games. Potentially working in favor of NC State will be the weather, as the early forecast is calling for possible thunderstorms for Saturday evening, so the Wolfpack defense may get some assistance from Mother Nature in terms of limiting the effectiveness of Brady and the Marshall passing game. Either way, the NC State secondary will have its hands full trying to contain one of the best receivers in the country.
With both schools having last week’s matchups cancelled, there is the slight possibility that the teams will play just 11 games this season. That puts additional importance on getting these early-season victories before conference play, as both teams will have one fewer opportunities to pile up wins toward bowl eligibility. With two quarterbacks playing at a high level early on in the season, and a full complement of weapons at the skill positions, this has the makings of a high-scoring affair if the rain holds off.
Prediction: NC State 34, Marshall 27
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.