1) NC State Quarterback Situation – NC State starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell suffered a foot injury in NC State’s 40-14 win over Louisiana Tech last Saturday and will be out for 4-6 weeks. That leaves Pete Thomas, a transfer from Colorado St., as the starter. Mitchell played well in his limited action and led the Wolfpack to touchdowns on their first two series. Thomas played decently, throwing for 212 yards on 15 for 27 passing, but he did not look nearly as good as Mitchell. Mitchell has the ability to cause trouble for defenses with his running ability whereas Thomas is a more traditional pocket passer. Richmond should have an easier time dealing with Thomas than it would have had with Mitchell. Although NC State is a run-first team, Thomas’ play will greatly impact the outcome of this game.
2) CAA v. BCS – The CAA had strong showings against BCS conference teams last weekend. Towson defeated UConn in Hartford last Thursday and Villanova and William and Mary kept their games close throughout against Boston College and West Virginia, respectively. There is no reason why the Spiders cannot do the same as the Spiders have proven they too can be giant killers. In its past seven games, Richmond is 3-4 against FBS conference teams. The lines have Richmond getting at least 20 points, but other CAA teams have already proven the conference can compete with BCS conference schools.
3) Youth v. Experience – NC State returns only nine starters from its 2012 team whereas the Spiders bring back 17. In addition, Dave Deoren is in his first year as NC State head coach. The Spiders experience and familiarity with each other could be a factor in a close game.
4) Defensive Line Play – The strengths of both defenses are each team’s defensive line. Richmond Head Coach Danny Rocco said he expected NC State to try to run over and through Richmond’s defense. If the defensive line allows this to happen, Richmond could get beat badly. If the defensive line controls NC State’s running game and forces Thomas to make plays, Richmond could be in a good position to pull of the win. The NC State defensive line will be focusing on pressing Richmond quarterback Michael Strauss. Strauss had all day to throw against VMI, and he used his time in the pocket to pick the Keydets apart. If NC State can pressure Strauss, he will have a much harder time making plays and could be forced into making turnovers. Each team’s defensive line play will dictate how the opposing team’s offense performs.
Keys to a Spider Victory:
1) Ball Security – Last season, Richmond turned the ball over 10 times in 11 games. The Spiders turned the ball over three times its one game against a weak VMI defense last week. Strauss said if the Spiders turn the ball over three times again this week, they will lose. He is absolutely right. Richmond cannot afford to give NC State any edge from turnovers. The responsibility to protect the ball starts with Strauss. If he plays a sloppy game, Richmond will not be able to hang with the Wolfpack.
2) Time of Possession – NC State had the ball for over 40 minutes in their lopsided victory over Louisiana Tech. Richmond does not necessarily need to win the possession time battle to win the game, but its offense will need to be on the field for more than 20 minutes in order to score enough points to be in a position to win the game. If NC State dominates the possession battle, Richmond’s defense will wear down in the second half and NC State will be able to blow the game open.
3) Establish a Running Game – The Spiders ran the ball very well against VMI, but NC State’s defense will be much stronger than VMI’s. I am still not sold on Richmond’s running game, but a good performance this week could alleviate any uncertainties still surrounding Richmond’s running game. This is an especially big game for Jacobi Greene, who will most likely get the most carries for the Spiders. If Greene can prove to be a threat on the ground, he will force the Wolfpack to pay attention to him. If NC State has to respect Greene, Strauss will face less pressure and should be able to make plays through the air. A one-dimensional offense won’t find success against NC State. A multidimensional offense will.
1) Richmond Will Sack Thomas more than Once – Richmond’s defensive line pressured VMI quarterback Eric Kordenbrock constantly on Saturday but couldn’t bring him down. This week the Richmond will continue to get pressure in obvious passing situations and the defensive line will record multiple sacks against the immobile Thomas.
2) Stephen Barnette leads all Receivers in Yards – Although Ben Edwards receives the most accolades and attention amongst Richmond’s receivers, Barnette looked to be Strauss’ favorite target against VMI. Barnette had 86 receiving yards against VMI and came within inches of getting even more yards. Look for the Wolfpack to key on Edwards opening up opportunities for Barnette to make plays.
3) Final Score: 27-21 NC State – The lines on the game being somewhere between 23 and 26 seems quite high given NC State’s uncertainty at quarterback, NC State’s inexperience, and The CAA’s performances last weekend. With that being said, I think Richmond will hang with NC State all the way through the game but the WolfPack will just barely squeeze out a victory.