Posted on October 23, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Every team begins the season with hopes and dreams of winning a national title. But most of them know that they don’t stand a chance. Many teams know that the best they can hope for is a conference title and a good bowl game or maybe just a winning record.
For North Carolina State (NC State) fans, the hope was just to make progress in head coach Dave Doeren’s fifth season. After going 3-9, 8-5, and then 7-6 twice, they wanted more; not necessarily much more.
Many fans of the Fighting Irish had different expectations in mind. After last season’s 4-8 finish, many thought another losing season would mean the end of head coach Brian Kelly. With the current crop of talent, there were plenty who thought it could happen.
The last thing anyone thought was that when Notre Dame and North Carolina State played in late October that the game would feature two top-15 teams game and have playoff implications.
But sure enough—it does.
Each team has one loss, so neither can afford to lose another game. Notre Dame needs to do more than just win; they need to win convincingly to make up for the lack of a conference title game. North Carolina State will have to take down the defending national champions in a few weeks and probably Miami in the ACC Championship game.
So, the road for both is tough, but it is not hard to imagine either pulling it off. But it can only happen for one—whoever wins on Saturday.
Notre Dame’s strategy is going to be pretty straightforward. They are going to make use of their sixth-ranked rushing attack (317.3 points/game). They’ll put some points on the board (41.3 points/game; 11th), and keep NC State from doing the same (allowing 16.4 points/game; 16th ).
Sounds simple enough, right?
It would if the Wolfpack were one of those pushover teams but they are far from that. But they are one of the best at stopping the run (No. 6 in the nation; 91.3 yards/game) and have an outstanding defensive line. But Brian Kelly isn’t too concerned about them (ESPN):
“They’re certainly very good. It’s as good as we’ve played. Georgia was outstanding as a defensive line. I think there’s some similarities to Georgia’s defensive line. It will be a great challenge, and our guys are looking forward to it. The last time they played Georgia, there were some things we could’ve done better, and now they get a second shot, if you will, at a very similar defensive line.”
If the NC State defensive line does its job, then it will be up to Notre Dame’s 117th ranked passing game to get the job done against NC State’s 121st pass defense.
Of course, the NC State offense is pretty formidable as well. They are one of the better passing teams in the nation (24th; 290 yards/game) and have an excellent quarterback in Ryan Finley (1968 yards, 11 touchdowns, 69.4 completion percentage, no interceptions). Notre Dame hasn’t done the best defending against the pass (85th; 235.3 yards/game). So it is not hard to imagine Finley having some success.
So—who’ going to win?
NC State is good and will give Clemson a run for their money next week, but they are not in the same class as Notre Dame. Had they done better against Florida State it might be easier to believe in them. Yes, they handled Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals pretty well, but Louisville’s defense is weak, and their offense is a one-man show.
The Wolfpack will keep this one close in the first quarter; expect a few three and outs from both teams. But as the first half draws to a close, Notre Dame is going to start breaking off some big plays. The Fighting Irish will take a commanding lead into the half and dominate the second half.
Notre Dame is favored by 7.5 points and will easily cover the spread.