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NC State Wolfpack vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Preview and Prediction

Matt Dayes

Matt Dayes

Teams don’t like playing an elimination game in early October. But that is essentially what is facing NC State and Virginia Tech on Friday night in Blacksburg.

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The Wolfpack are 4-1, but they dropped their ACC opener at home to Louisville this past Saturday. Since NC State resides in the Atlantic along with Florida State and Clemson, a 0-2 Wolfpack squad would have little chance to contend for a division title.

The situation is a little more perilous for Virginia Tech. With an ugly 17-13 loss this past weekend to Pittsburgh, the Hokies find themselves not only at 0-1 in the league, but also 2-3 overall. With four conference road games remaining, a loss would put Virginia Tech’s bowl eligibility in jeopardy and bring more heat to longtime head coach Frank Beamer.

Virginia Tech holds a 23-18-4 advantage in the series.

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NC State at Virginia Tech

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Virginia Tech -1

Three Things to Watch

1. The Possible Return of Michael Brewer

Brewer injured his collarbone in Virginia Tech’s season opening loss to Ohio State and the offense has sputtered since. But the senior will practice this week and will be a game-time decision on Friday night. Brenden Motley has shown an ability to run, but he has been inconsistent throwing the ball. Motley has a 57.1 completion percentage and has thrown seven touchdown passes and five interceptions. More than anything, the Hokies need a spark and perhaps Brewer’s return can get the offense going. However...

2. Virginia Tech’s Porous Blocking

The Hokies offensive line has not been good. And that’s being kind. Against Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech managed just nine yards rushing and a measly 100 yards of total offense. Motley was sacked seven times. Virginia Tech ranks 86th in passes attempted, but they have allowed 14 sacks, ranking No. 108. So in short, the line can’t run block and they can’t pass block. That’s not a good combination when going against NC State, who ranks No. 3 in total defense.

3. Slowing Down Jacoby Brissett

With star cornerback Kendall Fuller now out for the season, Virginia Tech’s secondary is a work in progress. Against East Carolina, Pirates receivers were running free time and again. This past Saturday, they did a better job containing Pitt and their star receiver Tyler Boyd, though the wet conditions made passing difficult. Brissett is off to a strong start for the Wolfpack. He has completed 73.2 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He is averaging less than 200 yards passing per game, but Matt Dayes has led a solid running game, easing Brissett’s load. If there are openings in the Virginia Tech secondary, Brissett will find them.

Final Analysis

While the Wolfpack has to deal with their first loss of the season, their minds are in a much better place than Virginia Tech’s. The Hokies have lost two in a row, they have lost their best player for the season, and the chirping about Frank Beamer’s job situation persists. Now they face North Carolina State with a balanced offense and a solid defense. If Brewer plays, the Hokies may be able to better incorporate wide receivers Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips along with tight end Bucky Hodges. The Virginia Tech defensive front will pressure Brissett, but he will be able to make some plays and the running game led by Dayes will grind out some yardage. NC State doesn’t have to do a lot offensively because with or without Brewer, Virginia Tech will struggle to score because of their offensive line. The Wolfpack goes into Lane Stadium and gets the victory.

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Prediction: NC State 21, Virginia Tech 13

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.