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Virginia Tech and NC State meet Friday night
By Brian Graham
NC STATE WOLFPACK (4-1) at VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (2-3)
Lane Stadium – Blacksburg, VA
Kickoff: Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Even, Total: 51
ACC foes looking to bounce back from close losses will square off Friday in Blacksburg when NC State visits Virginia Tech.
The Wolfpack suffered their first loss of the season (4-1 SU and ATS) last week when they fell 20-13 at home to 2.5-point underdog Louisville. The Hokies (2-3 SU and ATS) have dropped two straight games by a touchdown or less, falling 35-28 at East Carolina before Pittsburgh beat them at home by a 17-13 score on Saturday. Despite these schools playing in the same conference, they haven’t met since 2010 when Virginia Tech won 41-30 at NC State. The most recent meeting in Blacksburg was a 38-10 drubbing by the Hokies in 2009. There are some telling trends for the Wolfpack in this contest, as good offensive road teams (31+ PPG) where the line is +3 to -3 off 1 or more straight Unders are 61-23 ATS (73%) over the past five seasons, while home teams where the line is +3 to -3 after playing a game at home are 60-114 ATS (34%) in this same timeframe. However, Virginia Tech is an impressive 18-4 ATS (82%) after gaining 3.75 or fewer yards per play in its previous game since 1992, and is 18-8 ATS (69%) after 2+ straight SU losses in this same timeframe. NC State’s running game could suffer a bit with three players questionable with injuries — RB Johnny Frasier (ankle), G Alex Barr (ankle) and OL Bryce Kennedy (concussion). The Hokies might get back top QB Michael Brewer (collarbone), who will likely be a game-time decision. But they will definitely not have RB Marshawn Williams, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, and DL Corey Marshall (hamstring) is questionable for Friday.
NC State’s offense scored at least 35 points in each of its first four games, but managed only 13 points against Louisville last week. The ground game was particularly awful (45 yards on 30 carries), but the team’s 183 passing yards was nothing to write home about either. Senior QB Jacoby Brissett has yet to throw for even 220 yards in a game this season, but he has been very efficient with a 73% completion rate (8.1 YPA), 7 TD and 0 INT. This accuracy has helped move the chains and give his team a robust 36:48 average time of possession. The former Florida transfer has taken only 10 sacks in five games after being dropped 29 times last year. Brissett continues to rely heavily on FB/TE Jaylen Samuels whose four receiving touchdowns have all come in the past three contests. The 5-foot-11, 236-pound sophomore has a team-high 25 receptions for 300 yards. The air attack needs to get WR Jumichael Ramos (15 rec, 223 yds, 1 TD) going, as he has just two receptions in the past two weeks after starting the year with 13 grabs in three games. The Wolfpack rushing attack also needs junior RB Matthew Dayes to bounce back from a season low 3.6 YPC last game. But Dayes is still averaging 5.5 YPC this season with 680 total yards (522 rush, 158 rec). The NC State defense gave up a meager total of 198 rushing yards on 2.1 YPC in the first four games combined (50 YPG), but surrendered 203 yards (4.5 YPC) on the ground in last week’s loss to Louisville. The Wolfpack passing defense has been consistently great all season in limiting opposing passers to a 46% completion rate and 146 YPG (5.7 YPA). They have done so despite forcing only five turnovers, including three games with zero takeaways. But the secondary will certainly be tested if the Hokies top quarterback returns to the field on Friday.
Virginia Tech has certainly missed QB Michael Brewer (2,692 pass yards, 18 TD last year) who broke his collarbone in the season-opening loss to Ohio State. Backup QB Brenden Motley completed only 9-of-20 passes for 91 yards, 1 TD and 3 INT in last Saturday’s defeat, which was quite a drop-off from his 366 total yards and 2 TD he produced the week before at East Carolina. Whoever is under center will continue to heavily target 6-foot-2 sophomore WR Isaiah Ford who leads the team with 24 catches for 482 yards and 3 TD. But Ford was held to only two receptions last week and hasn’t found the end zone in three straight games. The Hokies rushing attack has fallen off in each of the past four games from 299 versus Furman, 238 at Purdue, 158 at East Carolina and a pathetic nine yards on 33 carries last week. Freshman RB Travon McMillian leads the team with 223 rushing yards (7.0 YPC), but has yet to carry the ball 10 times in a game this year. The Hokies defense has also struggled stopping the run in 2015 with 198 YPG on 5.0 YPC. But the pass defense has made up for it with holding opposing quarterbacks to a 47% completion rate and 158 YPG (6.9 YPA). Virginia Tech has also done a great job of forcing mistakes with 12 takeaways in five games.