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NC State vs. Wake Forest Football Prediction and Preview

NC State Wolfpack vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons Football Prediction and Preview

First place in the ACC Coastal Division and more on the line in Winston-Salem when the Demon Deacons host the Wolfpack

On Saturday, Wake Forest and NC State will renew a rivalry that has spanned more than 100 years.

The Demon Deacons (8-1, 5-0 ACC) are coming off their first loss of the season, a 58-55 decision to North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Wolfpack (7-2, 4-1) have won two in a row and are just a game behind Wake Forest in the Atlantic Division standings. Both teams also are the highest-ranked representatives from the ACC in the latest College Football Playoff Rankings  Wake at No. 12, NC State at No. 16. So there's plenty at stake on Saturday.

This will represent the 115th meeting all-time between the in-state rivals that are separated by a little more than 100 miles. NC State has a 67-41-6 edge with Wake Forest winning three of the past four matchups.

No. 16 NC State at No. 12 Wake Forest

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Wake Forest -1.5

When NC State Has the Ball

While many will focus on Wake Forest's offense entering this game, NC State can also put up points. The Wolfpack are averaging 31.1 points per game with Devin Leary leading the attack.

Leary has thrown for 2,475 yards, 25 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. He has a trio of productive wide receivers to throw to in Emeka Emezie, Thayer Thomas, and Devin Carter. Emezie leads the team in both receptions (44) and receiving yards (550), while Thomas has a team-best six receiving touchdowns.

On the ground, Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. basically share the backfield work. The duo has combined for 1,094 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Moving the ball and scoring points shouldn't be a problem for NC State since Wake Forest is statistically one of the worst defenses in the country this season. The Demon Deacons are giving up 435.4 yards per game (11th in ACC, 105th in FBS) and 27.7 points per game (ninth, 76th). Wake surrendered a total of 114 points to North Carolina and Army but also held Duke to just seven two weeks ago.

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When Wake Forest Has the Ball

Some of the Demon Deacons' defensive performance can be attributed to an offense that has done pretty much what it wants at any point in a game this season. To put it another way, it doesn't matter as much if your defense is giving up 28 points per game if the offense is scoring 45.

Wake Forest is third in the country in scoring and sixth in total offense at 508.7 yards per game. The key cog to this attack is quarterback Sam Hartman. With 2,873 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, and just five interceptions, Hartman is on the fringes of the Heisman Trophy conversation, although last week's loss to North Carolina took away some of his momentum. He still has three more games in the regular season to impress and further pad his numbers.

Wide receivers Jaquarii Roberson (50 rec., 848 yds., 8 TDs) and A.T. Perry (42, 845, 10) will contend for all-conference recognition, with Taylor Morin (26, 377, 4) serving as a reliable complementary option. The Deacons also have employed a three-man backfield with Christian-Beal Smith, Justice Ellison, and Christian Turner each logging 75 or more carries to this point. Hartman also runs it a lot (62 att., 285 yds.) and is tied for sixth in the ACC with eight rushing touchdowns.

NC State has been one of the nation's stingiest defenses, holding teams to 16 points (tied for sixth in the FBS) and 320 yards (20th) per game. The Wolfpack are giving up less than 100 rushing yards per contest and have surrendered a total of two touchdowns on the ground in nine games. That said, Wake Forest's offense leans to the pass and will pose a different kind of challenge for NC State.

Final Analysis

Despite NC State's defensive ranking, this game has shootout written all over again. Everyone knows Wake Forest can put up points, but the Wolfpack should be able to hold their own on offense.

One thing to keep in mind is the Demon Deacons haven't scored fewer than 35 points in a game. NC State hasn't given up more than 31. So one of these trends will have to give, and it's hard to bet against Wake Forest continuing to light up the scoreboard, especially considering that the Deacons may be a little extra motivated playing at home after last week's loss.

Prediction: Wake Forest 51, NC State 45

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— 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.