ACC Football Preview: N.C. State Wolfpack at (7) Louisville Cardinals

RB Brandon Radcliff has been somewhat overshadowed with the pure dominance of QB Lamar Jackson this season.
RB Brandon Radcliff has been somewhat overshadowed with the pure dominance of QB Lamar Jackson this season.

NC St-Louisville
Spread: LOU -19.5
Total: 65

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

Louisville rebounded after a Week 5 loss to Clemson to win 24-14 at home against Duke last week. The Cardinals are 5-1 on the season and sit ranked No. 7 in the nation.

Louisville only really has one big challenge left on its schedule (Houston on Nov. 17), but it will have to continue to take care of business against the weaker part of its ACC schedule, including this week’s opponent NC State. The Cardinals are heavy 19.5 point favorites in the game which will air at NOON (ET) on ABC Saturday.

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Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson continued his monster season last week with 181 passing yards and another 144 rushing yards, including a fourth-quarter TD which put the game out of reach for Duke. Jackson had his hand in two of the three Louisville TDs, with running back Jeremy Smith getting the other as part of his 97 yards (on just four carries).

The Cardinals generated 288 rushing yards in the game, gaining 8.2 yards per attempt and having few problems gathering first downs on the incessant ground attack. Duke managed just 239 total yards in the game, and Jela Duncan was limited to 44 rushing yards on 12 attempts. It was a pretty dominant performance for what was “just” a ten-point win for Louisville.

Jackson is still making his Heisman push. The sophomore already has 1,806 passing yards and 15 TDs on the season (with just four interceptions). He has rushed for at least 100 yards in five of Louisville’s six games, and he has scored at least one rushing TD in every game this season. His 50 percent completion ratio last week would have been somewhat problematic, if not for the fact the rush attack was going so well for Louisville.

Jackson is throwing 58.2 percent for completion on the season, but he has avoided risky passes and only been sacked nine times, which is not that bad considering how he is featured in just about every play. Louisville will have one more season of his dominance next year, too, before he is finally NFL-eligible.

Outside Jackson, Brandon Radcliff has had a good season rushing the ball, too. Radcliff ranks No. 2 on the team in rushing yards with 534 on 66 carries, and he has scored three TDs on the season. James Quick and Jamari Staples have been the top-two receivers and both have over 400 yards on the season. Only Quick has scored a receiving TD of the pair though (four of them at that).

Louisville has 17 passing TDs on the season and 24 coming via the rush. Their offense ranks No. 1 in the nation in points per game at 52.3, and its balance has been the best part: Louisville is No. 13 in the nation in passing yardage and No. 3 in rushing yardage, while accounting for some 627.5 total yards per game.

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NC State suffered a 24-17 loss to Clemson last week, which was its first ‘L’ since its week 2 failure at East Carolina. Wolfpack fans could not have asked for a better performance from their team, as NC State pushed OT where it finally lost when DeShaun Watson hit Artavis Scott for a 10-yard TD pass.

Ryan Finley threw 20 of 40 for 231 yards but averaged just 5.8 yards per attempt and had two interceptions. Matthew Dayes was the best source of offense, gaining 106 yards on 22 carries and scoring a TD, but NC State really may have lost the game due to kicker Kyle Bambard.

Bambard hit just 1 of 4 field goals, and obviously connecting on all of them would have resulted in victory. His long hit was just 28 yards, and his range is pretty weak which limits NC State given that it is not a dominant football team that can just pound it in the end zone at will.

The Wolfpack average 31.2 points per game (tied for No. 57 in the nation), and they hold opponents to just 18.7 points, but against tougher ACC teams like Clemson it is going to require better special teams play. NC State will have a tough time staying in this game with its kicker being that bad. Expect it to cause problems again this week.

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