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

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

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

Fresh off a drubbing of Florida State, NC State may have a clear path to a 10-win regular season and an at-large berth in a New Year’s Six bowl. The only time that NC State has ever reached double-digit wins came in 2002 under Chuck Amato.

The Wolfpack will remain home in what will be a short week as Wake Forest comes to town for a Thursday night ACC showdown. Wake Forest comes in at 4-5 following a loss to Syracuse. The Demon Deacons will need to win two of their final three games to become bowl eligible for a third straight season under head coach Dave Clawson.

Under Dave Doeren, the Wolfpack are 3-2 against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons snapped a three-game skid in the series last season with a 30-24 victory in Winston-Salem. Wake Forest hasn’t won in Raleigh since 2006.

Wake Forest at NC State

Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Spread: NC State -17

Three Things to Watch

1. Quarterbacks

NC State senior quarterback Ryan Finley enters Thursday night’s contest leading the ACC in passing yards, completion percentage and yards per attempt. There’s little reason to believe that will change after Thursday night. In last week’s contest against FSU, Finley was nearly flawless, completing 78 percent of his passes and tossing three touchdowns. The Wolfpack boast one of the best corps of receivers in the conference led by Jakobi Meyers and standout Kelvin Harmon.

Defensively, Wake Forest currently ranks 12th in the ACC in pass defense, but that is an area where the Deacons are better than NC State, as the Wolfpack are currently last in the ACC in pass defense. The bigger concern for Wake Forest is who starts at quarterback with the news that Sam Hartman will miss the rest of the regular season after suffering a leg injury last Saturday in the loss to Syracuse. Even though he's just a freshman, Hartman is tied for second in the ACC with 16 touchdown passes and was third on the team with 275 rushing yards.

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Sophomore Jamie Newman is the likely replacement, but he has played sparingly thus far so the Demon Deacons will need to rely even more on their running game to give Newman time to get comfortable leading the offense. Newman has weapons to throw to, namely Greg Dortch, but the injury to Hartman is a huge advantage for NC State, which enters this game last in the conference against the pass (306.4 ypg). If not Newman, former starter Kendall Hinton could get the nod, but he was moved to slot receiver and returner earlier this season and has been dealing with some injuries more recently.

2. NC State's rushing attack

For much of the season, NC State has ranked near the bottom of the ACC in rushing offense, but the Wolfpack came alive last week in a 47-28 win over a Florida State team that came in with a pretty good rush defense. For the contest, NC State finished with 177 yards on the ground with Reggie Gallaspy leading the way with 106. Those numbers could continue to improve this week against a Wake Forest defense that is the worst in the ACC against the run.

The Demon Deacons were gashed for 264 yards rushing last week against Syracuse and yielded 174 the week prior against Louisville. The defensive line for Wake Forest starts three seniors, but those players have simply been unable to generate a push this season. The NC State offensive line is also a veteran group with three starters. The Wolfpack haven’t been great running the ball this season but seem to be hitting their stride at the right time.

3. Turnovers

Mistake-free football is always a priority for any team, but that will need to be especially true on Thursday night for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are minus-five for the season when it comes to turnover margin — better than only Louisville and Florida State in the ACC.

NC State is even in turnover margin this season and was plus-two in last weekend’s win over the Seminoles. In the two losses for the Wolfpack this season, they’re minus-three. Against a putrid Wake Forest defense, giving the ball away seems like the only way that NC State won’t light up the scoreboard. When Finley doesn’t throw an interception this season, NC State is 4-0. The Demon Deacons were minus-three in last week’s loss to Syracuse and haven’t won the turnover battle in any of their losses.

Final Analysis

Despite going just 1-1 over the last two games, NC State is clicking on offense, having averaged 44 points over the last two weeks and scoring at least 41 in both contests. This week, the Wolfpack will be facing a Wake Forest team that has the worst overall defense in the ACC and must move forward without its starting quarterback. While there is the prospect of the Demon Deacons having some success through their air against NC State, the Wolfpack have the benefit of facing a quarterback who will be making his first start. The matchup on both sides of the ball seem to favor NC State and add to that the fact that this game is in Raleigh on a short week and the Wolfpack have their sights set on 10 wins and a major bowl appearance.

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Prediction: NC State 45, Wake Forest 20

— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the editor of The Daily Nole. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook and follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.