NC State has rebounded nicely after losing its opener to Tennessee, with victories over Connecticut and South Alabama. The Wolfpack will hope to keep things trending in a positive direction when they face off with the Citadel, an FCS team, in Week 4.
Although most games against FCS opponents are nearly automatic wins for FBS teams, NC State can't afford to take its foot off the pedal on Saturday. The Citadel is undefeated thanks to an offensive attack that has the potential to give the Wolfpack some problems.
NC State still holds the advantage and should keep its modest winning steak alive, but it's not a guarantee. The Wolfpack must play a complete game in order to avoid the upset. With that in mind, here's all the important information for the game.
Which team will win the Week 4 game?
Where: Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.
When: Saturday, Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. ET
Listen: ESPN Radio 910 AM (Citadel) or WCMC 99.9 FM (NC State)
Betting Line: TBA
Injury Report (via USA Today)
Citadel: No injuries listed.
NC State: Rob Crisp (questionable, undisclosed)
Key Storyline: Will NC State continue to build off recent momentum?
NC State was hoping to start its season with a bang by knocking off Tennessee, but weren't able to mount a comeback after a poor first quarter. A lot of times after a game like that there will be a hangover that costs the team another game.
That wasn't the case for the Wolfpack. They were able to regroup to beat UConn the following weekend. Even though it wasn't the most impressive win, it was enough to get back some of the confidence lost after the Tennessee defeat.
Scoring a big victory over the Citadel will keep the momentum on their side heading into a tough portion of the schedule, which includes a home game against No. 4 Florida State.
Top 25 Implications
A victory over the Citadel won't be nearly enough by itself to get NC State in the Top 25 conversation, but it's still a key game. The Wolfpack want to be riding a four-game winning streak heading into their matchup with the Seminoles early next month.
If the Wolfpack can do that and proceed to stun Florida State, then they would get into the rankings. It's a long shot, but that's what would need to happen.
What They Are Saying
NC State quarterback Mike Glennon said the key to the team's turnaround has been protecting the football and limiting errors, based on a report from Yahoo Sports.
"We don’t want to make the same mistake twice. Learn from the mistake and don’t let it happen again. I think (against South Alabama) there was a lot of evidence that there weren’t as many mistakes."
Citadel Player To Watch: Ben Dupree
Normally when a quarterback is the player to watch it's because he's capable of throwing for 500 yards and five touchdowns. That's not the case for Dupree. The Bulldogs QB makes most of his contributions in the running game.
Through three games, the Citadel has only attempted a total of 22 passes, with eight of them coming from Dupree. On the ground, he has racked up a team-leading 349 yards and four touchdowns. He's averaging more than six yards per carry.
Dupree will need to continue his dominance if the Bulldogs are going to pull off another upset. NC State will know what to expect when he's on the field, that's for sure.
NC State Player To Watch: Quintin Payton
When the Wolfpack need a big play, Glennon looks for Payton. The junior wide receiver only has 12 catches through three games in the team's balanced offense, but averages nearly 20 yards per grab and scored his first touchdown of the year last week.
Payton's playmaking ability should give him a distinct advantage over the untested Citadel secondary. He needs to exploit it to ensure NC State is able to move the chains early to put any Bulldog hopes of an upset to rest right away.
Even though the Citadel defensive game plan will likely revolve around making sure he doesn't run wild in the secondary, Payton is the type of player who can still make plays.
How many rushing yards will the Citadel total?
Key Matchup: Citadel rushing attack vs. NC State run defense
If the Bulldogs are going to shock the Wolfpack, the running game will lead the way. The Citadel is averaging nearly 60 rushing attempts per game, and the team isn't going to change its strategy just because the level of competition is going up.
That means NC State's front seven should be prepared for a long afternoon of stopping the run. The Wolfpack have done a nice job of keeping opposing running games under control over the past two weeks, but this is a unique test.
Should the Citadel establish the run early and control the clock, it has an opportunity to keep its unbeaten start in tact. But NC State should be able to slow it down enough to earn the victory.
NC State 31, Citadel 14