Duke-NC State: Expect Both Teams to Air It out

Mike KlineAnalyst IOctober 9, 2009

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 29:  Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis #9 of the Duke Blue Devils drops back to pass the ball during the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 29, 2008 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

When Duke and NC State hit the freshly sodded Carter-Finley Stadium field Saturday I don't expect to see the much damage done to the turf.

That would require a consistent running game which neither team has shown thus far.

The two ACC rivals are 16th and 25th nationally in passing yards per game while neither is in the top 50 in rushing yards per game.

The Wolfpack is a much more effective running team, however, averaging 134.8 yards per game on the ground. The Blue Devils are only managing a meager 91 yards per game.

Both teams have lived and died by the pass for the most part this season and I expected Saturday's contest to follow suit.

Where this game will be won or lost depends on if either team's play in the secondary can limit the opposing teams quarterback.

Which ever team can keep the other's passing game in check will win the game. However, the Blue Devils can't over look State's best rusher, quarterback Russell Wilson.

Right now the odds makers feel NC State will be the team to win this game by as many as 15 points. While I agree the Wolfpack will probably win the game, I can't help but think the game will be a lot closer than that.

As good as Wilson has been, I've got to believe Duke quarterback Thad Lewis will be able to cause some damage of his own against what looks to be four new starters in the Wolfpack's secondary.

Coach Tom O'Brien announced earlier this week that he was going with more experienced personnel in the secondary against the Blue Devils.

This may prove to be a good plan, but if those players haven't seen much live action this year it could end up being a risky move.

State is the better team and should win this game; however, they cannot afford to overlook the Blue Devils.

Duke is coming off arguably its best overall performance of the season in its loss last week to No. 6 Virginia Tech. If they can play as well and improve on some of the little things they didn't do well against the Hokies then the Blue Devils can win this game.

They are confident and trying to prove that they are not the same doormat they have been.

Probably the biggest obstacle facing Duke will be whether or not its secondary can limit State's down field passing and if they can generate some kind of pass rush and contain Wilson at least moderately then the Blue Devils give themselves a shot.

But given how good Wilson has been it will be easier said than done. But after all this is a rivalry game so one should always expect the unexpected.

Prediction: NC State 28 Duke 24

Keys to the game for Duke: The Blue Devils need to keep Russell Wilson in check on defense and take opportunities when they present themselves on offense. Duke managed to move the ball very well at times against arguably the best defense in the conference last week. The Blue Devils will have to be much better in the redzone this week if they want to win.

Keys to the game for NC State: As much as Duke needs to contain Russell Wilson it will be up to Wilson to take over the game for the Wolfpack. He is coming off his worst game of the season. He threw two interceptions after going seemingly forever without one. I'm sure he will be chomping at the bit to get back out there. And after the day Tyrod Taylor had last week against Duke's secondary I'm sure Wilson will be salivating at the prospect of getting back on track. As Wilson goes so does the Wolfpack.