Louisville vs. NC State prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins between the Cardinals and Wolfpack on Saturday in Louisville, KY.
Louisville vs. NC State Game Preview
When: Saturday, Oct. 22 – Noon ET
Where: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY
TV Broadcast: ABC
The Cardinals (5-1, 3-1 ACC) probably underwhelmed their fans last Friday night in a 24-14 home victory over Duke. But sometimes teams with championship aspirations need to deal with a little adversity on their way to special seasons. Quarterback Lamar Jackson had a two-yard touchdown run with 1:32 remaining to help the Cardinals hold off a valiant effort by David Cutcliffe’s Duke squad.
Meanwhile, the Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1) suffered a brutal loss to Clemson on the road when Kyle Bambard missed a 33-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation. Deshaun Watson hit Artavis Scott on a go-ahead 10-yard scoring pass, and Marcus Edmond intercepted Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley’s throw in the end zone to give the Tigers the overtime victory.
These two teams met last year in Raleigh, and Lamar Jackson found plenty of open running lanes in a 20-13 victory. Jackson ran for 121 yards, including a 68-yard scoring run in the first quarter of a game played during bouts of heavy rain.
What To Know About Louisville
Bobby Petrino’s Cardinals entered last Friday’s game averaging a nation-leading 58 points per contest, so Cutcliffe had his squad very prepared for the matchup. Even in an underwhelming effort, Jackson still accounted for 325 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. Jeremy Smith had an 80-yard touchdown run to help the Cardinals earn their program’s 500th victory. While Louisville outgained Duke 469-239, Petrino’s team didn’t really seem entirely in control. Perhaps there were some cobwebs that needed to be shaken out after the bye week as well as a lingering hangover effect from the wild Clemson tilt. Expect a more polished Cardinals product on the field this week.
What to Know About NC State
The Wolfpack gave head coach Dave Doeren a strong effort against Clemson last week, racking up 397 yards against the stout Tigers defense, and they even forced Watson into his first-ever Pick Six. However, Bambard was 1 of 4 on field-goal attempts, and NC State could not complete the upset. It doesn’t get any easier for the ‘Pack against Jackson and the Cardinals, although they have an idea of how difficult it will be to stop him following last year’s meeting. Running back Matt Dayes will need to have a big game on the ground, which would open the offense up for Finley to take shots down the field. Dayes has rushed for over 100 yards in each game except against Old Dominion, though he still averaged 5.1 yards per rush in the win over the Monarchs.
Offense: Louisville. Jackson is the difference, of course, but NC State has a balanced unit that will pose problems for the Cardinals defense.
Defense: Even. Both units are ranked high in total defense, with less than six yards per game separating the two teams.
Special Teams: Louisville. The Wolfpack missed three field goals, including a potential game-winner, versus Clemson. And the Cards have Jaire Alexander, who returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown against Florida State.
Coaching: Louisville. Petrino has the Cards in the College Football Playoff mix, but Doeren has his squad playing at a high level. Still, Petrino has one of the best offensive minds in the sport.
Intangibles: Even. Don’t expect a letdown from the Wolfpack. Doeren’s squad will be ready for another test against one of the nation’s best. Meanwhile, the Cards are not happy with last Friday’s performance.
Matchup To Watch
Jackson’s ground game vs. NC State defensive front
In last year’s seven-point Cardinals win, Jackson completed just 10 of 27 passes, but the Cardinals finished with 203 rushing yards against what was then the nation’s No. 3-ranked total defense. Jackson had a long scoring run on Louisville’s third possession, and he would go on to set the program’s single-season rushing mark for a quarterback after just five games. He finished the game with 121 yards to lead the ground attack. While NC State gave up a rushing score to Watson last week, the Clemson dual-threat didn’t have a huge impact on the ground. The Wolfpack must be able to corral Jackson and not let him be a huge producer on the ground. He is going to get his share of yards, but it will be a pick your poison type of situation for this NC State ‘D.’ It at least has to force Jackson to beat this unit through the air, and the Wolfpack need to guard against Jackson taking off and running on third down when plays break down.
Spread: Louisville -18
Over/Under: No over/under as of post
Louisville vs. NC State Prediction
The Wolfpack will give another valiant effort against a top ACC contender. But it will be a close but no cigar situation for Doeren’s squad, which won’t be sneaking up on The ‘Ville after last week’s near-upset in Death Valley. Jackson will generate 300 yards of total offense, and the Cardinals won’t let Dayes hurt them too much on the ground. NC State’s balanced offense will cause some problems for the Louisville defense, but the Cards will tighten things up in the red zone. Bambard will make his field goals this time around, but a team can’t settle for field goals against Louisville and expect to win.
Louisville vs. NC State Score Prediction: Louisville 38, NC State 23