No. 24 N.C. State hosts No. 17 Louisville at Carter-Finley Stadium Thursday night (8 p.m. ET), the first ranked matchup in Raleigh since 2000. Need a pick? We got ya covered.
N.C. State has never beaten Louisville in the regular season, going 0-6 SU and 1-5 ATS all-time. The lone Wolfpack victory over the Cardinals occurred in the 2011 Belk Bowl played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. N.C. State won 31-24 as 2-point favorites. Ironically, the two programs entered that matchup with identical national rankings as tonight with Louisville No. 17 and the Pack No. 24.
In terms of national rankings, this is the first ranked matchup at Carter-Finley Stadium since quarterback Philip Rivers’ freshman campaign in 2000. Then No. 6 Florida State rode into town and walloped the No. 21 Wolfpack 58-14 in a rout. Oddsmakers expected a blow out with the Seminoles lying 18 points. N.C. State, in fact, is just 1-10 SU and 6-4-1 ATS in their last 11 versus ranked teams. The lone win came this season in Week 4 with a 27-21 victory over then-No. 12 Florida State.
If N.C. State is to make it two in a row over ranked opponents, it will have to start on defense. End Bradley Chubb leads the group, arguably the best at his position in all of college football. It ranks eighth nationally in rushing defense, surrendering just 85.6 yards per game and 2.9 per rush (10th). The unit did so-so containing Heisman winner Lamar Jackson in last year’s 54-13 loss at Louisville. The dual-threat quarterback rushed for 76 yards and a score on 17 carries. Jackson had a field day in the pocket, however, tossing 3 TDs and 355 yards on 20-of-34 passes. N.C. State will have to do better to upset here.
Winning the turnover battle is a necessity for Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren as well. His squad coughed up the ball twice in its lone loss this year, a 35-28 defeat to South Carolina to open the season. They are the only two giveaways for the Pack through five games. Quarterback Ryan Finley is the main reason why. The junior has not tossed an interception in his last 257 attempts dating back to 2016. Finley owns a 71.9 percent completion rate and has thrown for 1,403 yards and 9 TDs in 2017.
Like the Wolfpack, its been a struggle for Louisville versus ranked opponents. Since 2014, it is 1-6 SU and 3-4 ATS. The team has only kicked off a favorite for one, last year’s 42-36 loss at Clemson. The Cardinals were surprisingly 1-point chalk against the reigning national champions.
So, what’s the best bet for our CFB picks in this one? Lay the points with the Cardinals. Both teams have underachieved in this spot in recent years, but N.C. State has disappointed more. Since Doeren took over in 2013, the Pack are 1-10 SU and 2-9 ATS at home with a line in between touchdowns. They’re falling to a 1.7 average line by 11.1 points per game. The average score is 30.8-18.0 with N.C. State scoring more than 23 points one time.
The N.C. State offense played flat in long stretches in last week’s 33-25 win over Syracuse, failing to hit its projected team total by 4.5 points. That makes it four home conference games in a row the unit has not lived up to market expectations, missing projections by 9 points per game. The unit is very good, but methodical, lacking that dynamism necessary to match Jackson and the Louisville offense point for point. N.C. State is posting 5.3 yards per play in three games against Power 5 opponents this year. The Cardinals rank fifth in the country with 7.4 yard per play. Good luck keeping up.