Both the NC State Wolfpack and the Old Dominion Monarchs will enter their game on Saturday with a 2-0 record. NC State defeated Troy and Eastern Kentucky in its first two games of the season while Old Dominion has victories over Eastern Michigan and Norfolk State.
Many have called this game the biggest in Old Dominion football history, as the school just started the program in 2009. Considering NC State is the first Power 5 school to visit Foreman Field, that isn’t exactly an exaggeration.
NC State at Old Dominion
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: N/A
Spread: NC State -15
Three Things to Watch
1. Shadrach Thornton’s return
After being suspended for the first two games of the 2015 season, running back Shadrach Thornton will play on Saturday against Old Dominion. The senior has led the Wolfpack in rushing each of the last three seasons.
Last season, Thornton rushed for 907 yards and recorded 10 total touchdowns. His suspension was for a violating a university policy. Head coach Dave Doeren hasn’t given exact details about the suspension, but he has said the related incident happened six months ago.
In his absence, NC State averaged 225 rushing yards per game and 4.25 yards per carry against Eastern Kentucky and Troy. The Wolfpack have run the football fine without Thornton, but it will be good for the team to get its starting running back on the field.
2. Ray Lawry
While NC State has an excellent rushing game, Old Dominion has a pretty productive ground game of its own. The Monarchs have the nation’s leading rusher and his name is Ray Lawry.
In the team’s first two games, Lawry has rushed for over 200 yards in each contest. So far in 2015, the sophomore has 438 yards and six rushing touchdowns.
If Old Dominion has any chance of defeating NC State on Saturday night, Lawry will have to play a major role in the team’s offense. The Wolfpack on average has allowed 78 rushing yards per game in their first two games, but Lawry will be the best running back the team has faced this season.
3. Can Old Dominion slow down Jacoby Brissett?
The single player that might determine the winner on Saturday might be quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The senior has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in college football through his first two games, as he is completing 84 percent of his passes. Brissett has also thrown for 412 yards, three touchdowns and has a quarterback rating of 183.4.
In Old Dominion’s first two games against Eastern Michigan and Norfolk State, the Monarchs gave up an average of 175 yards passing per contest. It isn't likely Old Dominion can hold Brissett to 175 yards passing, but this unit will have to limit his big plays in order for the defense to be successful.
Considering both NC State and Old Dominion have played easy opponents prior to their matchup on Saturday, both teams should get tested.
Old Dominion will have to open up the passing game up a bit as the Monarchs have been mostly a running team during their first two games. Freshman quarterback Shuler Bentley has thrown for 306 yards and one touchdown in two starts.
While there should be a lot of points scored, Brissett and the NC State offense will be too much for Old Dominion and that’s why the Wolfpack will win a high-scoring affair.
Prediction: NC State 48, Old Dominion 28
— 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, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.