Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. NC State Wolfpack
Saturday, September 19, 2020 – 08:00 PM EDT at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina
Wake Forest's Unique Losses in The Passing Game
After entering as a Freshman in 2018, quarterback Sam Hartman failed to secure a starting job because of his inefficiency — he could not approach a 60 percent completion percentage. Any glimpses of potential were largely produced by his ability to rely on distinctly talented wide receivers.
These wide receivers — Greg Dortch, Kendall Hinton, and Sage Surratt -- have been the main source of any offensive notoriety that the Demon Deacons have obtained in recent years of ACC football.
Dortch wasn’t missed too heavily last year as Hinton and Surratt were able to produce 1,000-yard seasons each. This year, half of the team’s receptions and yards departed and then Surratt opted-out. With the top four receivers (in terms of yardage) gone, Hartman isn’t going to have a receiver who can mask his deficiencies as a passer. So, we have a back-up caliber quarterback in Hartman trying to develop chemistry with unfamiliar and less talented receivers.
Wake Forest Rush Attack vs. NC State Defense
Running back is probably the most promising position in terms of returning talent. So for argument’s sake i’m not going to draw insights from leading rusher Cade Carney’s departure.
My main concern is that, in addition to not having support from a threatening passing game, Wake’s running backs won’t get much blocking. In years past, the Demon Deacons had been able to rely on experience in their offensive line, even if that experience didn’t produce much success.
As measured by opportunity rate, which is a metric that basically measures an offensive line’s ability to do its job, Wake’s run-blocking unit ranked 120th. Only 28 starts return from that group plus a graduate transfer. Inexperience complements inability.
Wake’s lack of run blocking will be compounded by the depth and quality of NC State’s linebacking corps, which forms the strongest position in the Wolfpack defense. Isaiah Moore returns to quarterback NC State's defense. Payton Wilson, who accrued a team-leading 69 tackles and five TFL despite starting only one game, is also back.
Levi Jones, a blue-chipper from USC who sat last season out, will enter the mix. These guys will build off a unit that owned one of the conference’s top run defenses last year.
NC State Pass Defense
Anchoring NC State’s defensive line is Alim McNeill, a PFF All-American third-teamer who will help harass the Demon Deacons in the backfield. Wolfpack linebackers and defensive linemen will secure a presence in Wake Forest’s backfield thanks to its regressed offensive line.
While their pass defense suffered statistically last year, its capability is understated because its statistics were very much affected by the uncanny number of injuries which the secondary suffered.
Plenty of depth and experience returns for NC State’s pass defense because of all the injuries last year. One high-graded defensive back to watch is Tyler Baker-Williams who was a 2020 All-ACC Preseason third-teamer.
NC State has had a serious problem trying to find a competent quarterback since Ryan Finley left for the NFL. Devin Leary is not going to be that guy. He failed to complete half of his passes last year despite averaging 5.8 YPA. Despite his consistent incompetence, the Wolfpack averaged .59 more yards per play when he was playing than when he was not. So in a sad way, the Wolfpack offense depends on him.
On top of this sad dependence, NC State will play its first game with a new offensive coordinator. Leary plus this offensive novelty in the team’s first game makes an „over“ or an NCAAF Bet on NC State impossible for me to suggest.
NC State Running Game vs. Wake Forest Run Defense
Running back will be NC State’s position of strength on offense. But the Demon Deacons counter strength for strength with a veteran defensive line anchored by Carlos Basham. His 11 sacks and 17 tackles for loss last year helped place him on multiple national award watch lists.
They also return their leading tacklers at linebacker in Ryan Smenda Jr. and Ja’Cquez Williams. They help bring the returning talent to improve upon Wake’s average run defense statistics.
Whereas Wake Forest has (somewhat of) a quarterback with nobody to throw to, NC State has relatively reliable wide receivers but nobody to throw them the ball. Both teams will try to lean on stronger run games. But the Demon Deacons will struggle to handle NC State’s linebacking corps with their low-caliber run-blocking.
Meanwhile, the newness of NC State’s offense, playing in its first game overall and under a new coordinator, will also hamper its ground game and Wake Forest’s above-average run defense will provide an added obstacle. For the above reasons, invest in a low-scoring game when you place your college football bets at the top sportsbooks.