Wolfpack look to stay undefeated when they host the Cavaliers
One of the more underrated games on this loaded college football weekend schedule is between two long-time ACC rivals as the Virginia Cavaliers will travel to Raleigh to take on the NC State Wolfpack.
Virginia is coming off an ACC win over Louisville, 27-3, marking the first time the Cavaliers have held a conference opponent without a touchdown since beating Maryland 20-9 on Oct. 17, 2009. Saturday will be NC State's conference opener as it defeated Marshall 37-20 last week to improve to 3-0 on the season.
Virginia and NC State are meeting for the 58th time but for the first time since 2012. The Wolfpack holds a 34-22-1 advantage in the series.
Virginia at NC State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 29 at 12:20 p.m ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: NC State -5.5
Three Things to Watch
1. NC State offense
Through three games, the Wolfpack offense has continued to get better, averaging 34 points per game. Quarterback Ryan Finley leads the ACC in passing yards as he is averaging 352 per game. He has for 1,056 passing yards, which is the most for an NC State player in his first three games of a season since Philip Rivers in 2003 (1,068).
Junior receiver Kelvin Harmon registered 150 yards against Marshall last week, which was the second highest total of his career. He leads the ACC in receiving yards per game (104).
It will be interesting to see if the Wolfpack offense can have success against a Cavaliers defense that completely shut down the Cardinals attack last week.
2. Bryce Perkins
Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall found himself a gem when he landed Perkins, who led Arizona Western Community College to the JUCO National Championship last year.
Through four games, Perkins has thrown for 867 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions, He has also rushed for 317 yards and three scores, making him one of eight FBS quarterbacks since 2000 to record 800-plus passing yards, 300-plus rushing yards, nine-plus passing touchdowns and three-plus rushing touchdowns through the first four games of the season.
If Virginia is going to pull off the upset, they will need Perkins to have another all-around game and probably his best game in a Cavaliers uniform.
3. NC State defense
While the Wolfpack's offense has been lighting up the scoreboard recently, their defense shouldn't take a backseat to anyone. Despite players departing for the NFL Draft, NC State has one of the best defensive units in the nation. Three games into 2018, the Wolfpack leads the ACC and ranks ninth nationally in scoring defense as they're allowing just 13.3 points per game.
NC State also leads both the nation (along with Auburn, Utah and West Virginia) and the ACC by allowing just four touchdowns. And all of the offensive touchdowns scored on the Wolfpack defense this season have come during the first half of play.
NC State defense will have a huge challenge trying to contain Perkins as he is the most versatile quarterback they've seen this season. The Wolfpack linebackers and secondary will need to do their jobs and don't watch Perkins the entire time as he can also beat a defense with his arm.
This game has the potential to be one of the best games on a jam-packed Saturday slate. While Virginia's offense will certainly keep the Cavs in this game, NC State's defense will likely be the difference in a tight contest.
In the Cavaliers lone loss this year, Indiana was able to keep Virginia one-dimensional with only 294 yards of total offense. Expect the Wolfpack to try and follow the same recipe for success as they should be able to come with the home victory.
Prediction: NC State 38, Virginia 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, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.