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2018 Virginia Football Opponent Preview: North Carolina State Wolfpack

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The second road contest for the Hoos takes them to Raleigh in Week 5

North Carolina v North Carolina State Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Y’all remember 2012?

Way back when Mike London started his streak of losing seasons in Charlottesville, the Virginia Cavaliers beat NC State 33-6 for their third and penultimate win of the year. This was the last time UVa faced off with the Pack and the result certainly contributed to State’s ousting of Tom O’Brien at the end of the season. What did State do following their disappointing 2012? They hired Dave Doeren. What did UVa do following their disappointing 2012? They hired Tom O’Brien...

2017 Season: 9-4 (6-2 ACC)

In Doeren’s sixth year, he led a talented roster to six ACC wins, a Sun Bowl win over Arizona State, and a school-record seven NFL draft picks. It was a season that UVa fans love to see their team accomplish, but for a school with currently higher aspirations, some will say that it was a giant missed opportunity for NCSU to establish itself as an ACC title contender. Considering that the Pack have never played in an ACC Championship game, last year may have been their strongest chance to accomplish that goal. Their annual games against Clemson and FSU will always be tough, but QB Ryan Finley returns this season to try and get the Pack over that division champion hump.

Players to watch:

QB Ryan Finley is one of the top returning quarterbacks in the country and will lead the NCSU offense during his sixth collegiate season. He passed for 3514 yards, 17 TDs, and 6 Ints in 2017, but will be missing the production of a couple of prolific backs in Jaylen Samuels and Nyheim Hines (and their combined 274 pass targets from 2016-2017).

North Carolina v North Carolina State Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

WR Kelvin Harmon: Following a nice 69 receptions and 1000+ yards season, Harmon returns to hopefully serve as Finley’s number one target again.

LB Germaine Pratt: State is fairly young on defense this year and Pratt’s the most experienced linebacker in the corps. He’s a 5th year senior, was their 4th leading tackler last year, and sealed two wins (UNC and Louisville) with late interceptions.

Mascot grade: A

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t explain why I enjoy Mr. and Mrs. Wuf so much as mascots...but I do. I think my childhood Pierce would rank them #1 in mascots that visited Scott Stadium over the years.

Analytics:

Bill Connelly’s SBNation Preview

The defense will clearly be the weakness for the 2018 Wolfpack, as Finley can potentially lead State to be the ACC’s best offense. If they can improve upon the 83rd projection on the other side of the ball, NCSU could finally with the Atlantic.

Prediction:

While there will be a large opportunity for UVa and QB Bryce Perkins to take advantage of an inexperienced defense, Finley presents the biggest challenge of the season in opposing signal callers. The secondary for the Hoos should be a strength...but the pass rush is a potentially big weakness. Both teams lost a lot of talent on both sides, but the more deeper roster and uber-experienced QB will both be wearing red.

Score: NSCU 37 UVa 24