The least you need to know about the Bearcats Opponent o' the week.
The offense that NC State has been using this season is much more in the pro style mode than the group that UC faced last year. Last year Russell Wilson was the QB and as a very athletic guy some of the zone read crept its way into the system. The Pack didn't call a ton of designed runs for Wilson, but when things broke down in the pocket he was very adept at buying time.
Mike Glennon is not that kind of quarterback or athlete so the zone read looks that were shown last year are gone. Afterall men who run like a baby gazelle aren't the logical choice to try to out flank the defenses. This year the offensive approach is much more pro style in nature calling on Dana Bible's extensive experience in the pro game. In the passing game you will see a lot of intermediate crossing routes, flood routes and anything else that will tax UC's zone schemes.
Glennon looks a lot like Tennessee QB Tyler Bray, though I don't think he has the raw ability of Bray, some of the physical tools are similar. On the year Glennon has 59 of 92 passes for 745 yards with 8 TDs and 1 INT. He is a capable guy, but he doesn't have anything resembling the receivers that Bray had for Tennessee. There are no Justin Hunters or Da'Rick Rogers here. The best of the bunch is T.J. Grahm who leads the team with 12 catches and 252 yards and a pair of TD's. Also keep an eye on TE George Bryan who is a definite match up concern for UC's linebackers.
The running game is strictly inside/outside zone so once again it is going to be critical for UC's linebackers and safties to have good gap awareness. This is something that has plagued the Bearcats defense all season long. But there is a bit of a reprieve. Last years top back, Mustafa Green was injured in August and won't be back until later in the season. So far State has been splitting carries between Curtis Underwood and James Washington. Both bring something to the table, Underwood is a bigger back at 5'11" 220 and Washington is a bit of an all purpose guy. Both are capable runners, but Green was the starter for a reason.
The offensive line has had some issues protecting the QB, giving up 8 sacks on the year. Part of that can be chalked up to the change in QB style. Wilson is the type of QB that can survive protection breakdowns with his feet and make something happen. Glennon on the other hand is a little more statuesque.
The injury bug has bitten State's defensive depth chart this year. The sense I get from reading up on NC State is that people aren't really worried about the offense as much as the defense. The front has played reasonably well this season. The Pack ranks 6th in sacks and 22nd in tackles for loss. Now how much of those numbers is the skill and quality of the defensive line and how much can be contributed to a schedule that has included two FCS teams and Wake Forest is hard to quantify
NC State suffered a big blow when it was announced that starting OLB Terrell Manning is out Thursday. The only linebacker starting Thursday that was expected to start at the beginning of the year is Audie Cole. Cole is a good one who should have a decent career at the next level and is someone to keep an eye on. N.C State has a good front seven, and as a whole they are very good against the run. But there are major issues in pass coverage,
Liberty, and Wake Froest combined to throw for 632 yards with a robust 8.1 yards per attempt. If there is a saving grace to this secondary, its that they turn the ball over 7 interceptions on the year. Good for 4th nationally. Those interceptions are a major reason why this secondary ranks 48th nationally in pass efficiency defense despite ranking 103rd in passing yards allowed per game. The basic MO then is that NC State will attack on defense to attempt to mask the problems in the back end. If the OLine can diagnose and absorb the defensive pressure there are big plays to had in the passing game.
NC State is pretty sound in the kicking game this year, though not exceptional. Phil Steele's ranking of special teams puts the Wolfpack at 62nd nationally. T.J. Graham is a pretty gifted returner, particularly of punts and Niklas Sade has been fairly consistent place kicker, particularly for a freshman. But the caveat is that Will Baumann has been inconsistent as a punter, averaging just 37 yards per punt.
The Final Word
This is an NC State team that is capable of coming into Nippert Stadium and getting a win. They have some pieces offensively that can cause problems for the UC defense, which is never a sure thing. But I think that their defense will have trouble containing the UC offense. The style of defense that they play is a high risk gambit against UC. If they succeeding sowing the seeds of chaos in the UC front it could be a long night for Zach Collaros seeing holes that are immensely exploitable, but not having the time needed to exploit them. If the UC front absorbes the pressure this game could turn into a track meet, which favors the Bearcats.