Ok, you've heard by now that N.C. State and Maryland are pretty clearly the two worst teams in the ACC. If you haven't heard it, you've figured it out. In fact, the Wolfpack is the only team with a conference record worse than Maryland's. It only stands to reason, then, that this Maryland's best - and perhaps only - legitimate shot at grabbing another ACC win before the end of the year. So, will it happen?
N.C. State's Offense vs. Maryland's Defense: If you read just this section, then no, you'll probably think it won't. The Wuffies have been lighting it up all year; with the exception of the opener against South Carolina, they've yet to have been held under 20 points, and are averaging 37 a game. They're 21st in passing offense, 34rd in total offense, and 20th in scoring offense. Maryland, on the flip side, is 86th in passing defense, 78th in total defense, and a putrid 104th in scoring defense.
That, my friends, is the making of a blowout.
The leader of North Carolina State is a guy named Russell Wilson, who you might've heard of before. Remember, the All-ACC freshman last year, almost never made a mistake, both athletic and accurate? He's back, although less strongly than last year. The 17th most efficient passer in the country can make plays both with his arm and his feet, making an already tough job for Maryland's defense even tougher.
Luckily, they aren't a very strong team on the run outside of Wilson's improvisations, so Maryland might be able to sell out against the pass and force them to run the ball to win. Of course, if it was that easy, some of the earlier teams might've succeeded at it - Wilson can still pick his way through a defense, or simply take off running. If they sell out so much as to make those impossible, then they will hand it off to Toney Baker, and he'll have holes I could run through to get first downs. Also, that's the exact same thing Maryland tried against Wake Forest, and that backfired big time.
Maryland won't be able to stop this offense, especially not with a calm, mild day on the horizon. They'll have to hope to slow them down, instead, and maybe force a few punts and a FG or two.
Maryland's Offense vs. N.C. State's Defense - Ah, the respite. North Carolina State's defense is god-awful - they've allowed 41 points per game the last five contests, which would be good for exactly 118th in the country. It hasn't really mattered how the opposing team attacks them, either - whether its run or pass, they'll give up the yardage and the scores. Consider that this defense is, in the past five weeks, actually worse than Maryland in every major category, and that should give you a good idea of what the Terps are going up against.
Sadly, Maryland's offense is ranked only slightly higher than NC St's defense, so I don't think we can expect an outpouring of points from an offense that only managed 13 against Duke, who hadn't given up less than 20 to a BCS opponent, and 9 against Virginia, who let W&M into the 20s.
I don't think Maryland would change their pass-happy strategy the past few weeks against a defense that gave up nearly 500 yards through the air to Duke. Instead, the coaches should try to involve Torrey Smith even more, because he likely won't have a better chance at racking up yardage than he'll have tomorrow.
Prediction: Good offense vs. bad defense and bad offense vs. bad defense? At least NCSt has a good offense. They get the nod, 45-32.
Players to Watch:
- Russell Wilson, QB, NCSt - Ok, so it's a gimme, but Wilson is extremely dangerous and should be able to make a secondary still searching for a #1 corner hurt.
- George Bryan, TE, NCSt - Like most good TEs, Bryan is Wilson's favorite target. He's surprisingly effective for a TE, and if he's matched up with Alex Wujciak, it might be rough for Maryland.
- Wille Young, DE, NCSt - Young's one of the best DEs in the conference, and I had him on my preseason All-ACC team. He's very athletic, and currently checks in at 17th in the country with 7 sacks. You can expect him to climb the charts after facing this offensive line.
- Ray Michel, LB, NCSt - Michel, one of NCSt's defensive leaders and last year's leading tackler, missed last week with an ankle injury, but is questionable against Maryland. If he's out there, I feel much less confident about Maryland's chance at winning.
- Caleb Porzel, RB, Maryland - This will be his first game not on a wet field, meaning he'll have a real chance to showcase his quickness and explosiveness. Don't be surprised if he busts one (finally) this week.
- Bruce Campbell, LT, Maryland - Watch an offensive lineman? Yep. It'll be up to Campbell to stop Young one-on-one, because the rest of the line needs all the help it can get. This could be Campbell's shot to prove his worth to scouts...and Maryland fans, of course.
- Anthony Wiseman, CB, Maryland - He'll be starting again this week, so look forward to his trademark up and down play. He'll have to be at his best to help contain the Pack's passing attack.
- Demetrius Hartsfield, LB, Maryland - He should be back on the field this week, and if he is, he'll be instrumental in slowing down Russell Wilson - he's been one of the main tools in containing mobile QBs.