Maryland football takes on the N.C. State Wolfpack this Saturday in their homecoming game of the season, with hopes of remaining undefeated in ACC play after three games for the first time since 2001. Since we just looked back on history for that stat, let’s take a look at N.C. State vs Maryland stats:
– The all-time series is tied at 32-32-4
– Maryland has won eight of the last twelve meetings with N.C. State, but lost their last meeting 56-41 in Raleigh.
– Maryland has won the last three games at home against N.C. State, spanning back 6 years.
Those three stats hold less weight than others, obviously; the games were not played with the same rosters as the teams are currently constructed, for starters. Still, if they say anything at all it is that the Terrapins and the Wolfpack play one another closely every time they meet. A historical stalemate is something that I can buy into. The Terrapins winning three of their last three tries at home is also telling. A homecoming game, to me, just means a more packed stadium. I don’t think it has much bearing on the game because I don’t believe emotions win games. Preparation wins games. So without further ado, let’s do a little fan prep and scouting on N.C. State.
N.C. State’s Bread and Butter
1.) Their Passing Attack
Plain and simple, the Wolfpack like to sling that rock around the football field. Whether they are nearly as effective as they should be at it is another story, but the fact remains that they love to throw. Mike Glennon, their senior quarterback, has attempted 97 passes in his last two games against Miami and Florida State. In those two games, he has compiled 699 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 54 passes. Glennon has been disappointing in comparison to his junior season where he threw 31 touchdowns to only 12 picks, but you have to figure he will eventually hit his stride and become what he was supposed to be.
Part of Glennon’s struggles come from the lack of weapons he has in the receiving core. The Wolfpack have one go-to guy in junior receiver Quintin Payton, who is on pace for 1,000 yards this year. He is a deep threat who is good for about five catches a game that will go for quite a few yards. Unfortunately, it ends with Payton. The Wolfpack just don’t have the firepower up there, and in spite of how much they throw, no one stands out (even against poor opponents like Tennessee and poor defenses like Miami).
2.) Cornerback David Amerson
If you haven’t heard of David Amerson yet, chances are pretty good that your favorite NFL team has. Last season, Amerson was the best corner in the entire nation, racking up 13 interceptions (the most by any player since 1968) and setting a bunch of records along the way. The 6’3 CB is an All-American stud, but there is no doubt that he has had his fair share of troubles this year.
Take, for example, his game against Miami which was arguably the worst of his career. Amerson was burnt on four touchdown passes from Stephen Morris that were thrown directly at him. A mental error which resulted in an offsides penalty for N.C. State led to a fifth score as well. He looked like a shade of himself, and media took note of that.
So why do I think he is still a weapon for them? Because he is still a fantastic corner, and he will be going up against a true freshman who lacks the firepower against him. For all his struggles on the field, Amerson still has three interceptions already this year (as many as the entire Maryland team), and he might have a feast against quarterback Perry Hills. More than likely, Amerson is going to be up against Stefon Diggs, and that in and of itself is a challenge. Still, if anyone can shut him down it is going to be this kid, whose size and speed are unparalleled at his position.
The Wolfpack’s Woes
1.) Their Pass Defense is Horrendous
The Wolfpack are downright the worst team in the ACC at stopping the pass, surrendering 268.5 yards per game through the air. This comes in spite of that secondary I just hyped up, which was supposed to be downright intimidating to start the season. Instead, they have been pretty inconsistent; playing well against Florida State, but getting absolutely shredded like sharp cheddar against Tennessee and Miami. I have my doubts about (and by that I mean I am almost certain it won’t) this trend continuing, given the amount of talent they have. But the fact is, up until this point they have not been particularly impressive.
Perry Hills has been pretty successful against poor passing defenses, and if the offensive line can give him any amount of time, he should have some success. If Stephen Morris had a field day against them (think: bringing a $50 bill to a Dollar Tree), then Perry Hills can do the same.
2.) Their Kicker
I know, this is probably being a bit nit-picky, but Niklas Sade is not the best field goal kicker in the ACC and that could come back to hurt the Wolfpack against a staunch Maryland defense. Sade has only connected on five-of-eight field goals this season, which is 7th in the ACC; for comparison’s sake, Maryland’s Brad Craddock is 6/10, and he isn’t good at all. Sade is fantastic on kickoffs, with tons of hang times on his balls, but he hasn’t been a lock as a field goal expert.
I fully expect Sade to get a few opportunities against Maryland to kick a few through the uprights, but I also fully expect him to miss one or two as well. He just isn’t that good this year, and he wasn’t last year either. He will marginalize Stefon Diggs, but I do think his performance will come back to damn N.C. State.
3.) Bye Week Hangover
N.C. State beat Florida State and then went on a bye week. That two week layover is a long time for a team to prepare (which is a good thing), but it is also a great time for a team to get overconfident (which is a bad thing). The Wolfpack beat the number three team in the nation, and deserve a pat on the back for doing so after that horrible loss to Miami the week before, but all sorts of things can go on in a players head during a bye week. Maryland should be hoping that, in spite of being heavily scouted, the Wolfpack will fall victim to hubris.
Of course, what we hope for and what actually occurs is another story. But teams oftentimes struggle out of the bye just as much as they are prepared. They get lead feet, and are out of sync from their typical Spartan routine. Maryland will have a packed house, and hopefully that will play in their favor.