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A Smaller Pack but No Less Fierce

BC vs NC State Previewed

Boston College v North Carolina State
BC faces a tough but very winnable game against NC State
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Wolfpack of North Carolina State bounds into Alumni Stadium on October 10th for a battle with BC. Here is what Eagles’ fans need to know about the 2019 Wolfpack.

What the Eagles will face:

The Wolfpack offense was the number three offense in the ACC last year but that may change this year. NC State lost a lot this past off-season including three year starter Ryan Finley, star wide-out Kelvin Harmon, (both picked in the 2019 NFL Draft) and starting running back Reggie Gallaspy Jr. That’s NC State’s leading passer, rusher, and receiver all gone. The loss of Finley who had been a three year starter at NC State will perhaps be the most heavily felt. To give a clearer picture, Finley completed 326 passes and scored 25 TDs last season; Matthew McKay NC State’s presumable starter this year has only completed seven passes and scored no touchdowns in his career. This loss is compounded given NC State’s identity as primarily a passing offense in 2018, passing for 313 yards per game as opposed to 143 rushing yards per game. There will be fewer targets too for whoever starts at QB as Jakobi Meyers the team’s second leading receiver and starting tight end Damien Darden are gone as well.

Furthermore, four of five starters on the offensive line are gone including starting center Garrett Bradbury who went in the first round of the NFL Draft to the Minnesota Vikings. The pack only returns three of its backup offensive lineman as well. Meaning, if McKay starts as QB he will have a less experienced offensive line in front of him. It doesn’t help that this was an offensive line that gave up the second most sacks in 2018 and now it comes back with even less experience.

NC State may go to the ground more often in 2019. True sophomore, Ricky Person Jr., the team’s second leading rusher, returns in 2019 and the Wolfpack welcomes in Zonovan Knight who was named to 247Sports Preseason Freshman All-American Team (see https://www.backingthepack.com/2019/8/19/20812737/nc-state-football-zonovan-knight-named-to-preseason-freshmen-all-american-team-by-247sports) A strong running game would make it easier on McKay to settle into the starting role. McKay, as a redshirt Sophomore and the only QB on the roster with game experience, is who should be expected to start at QB. Now, it would dangerous to take McKay’s lack of experience as a sign he is not competent. Sitting behind Finley for two years has provided McKay plenty of learning opportunities so perhaps he is able to fill the void left behind by Finley. Either way, BC should have a good grasp on whoever starts by the time the two teams play.

It is a slightly different story on the defensive side of the ball. NC State ranked as the ACC’s sixth best defense and its offensive loses are not as numerous. The Wolfpack return six starters from last year defense, including 3 of their top 5 tacklers and 4 of their 5 top sack-masters. However, some of the losses they did suffer were significant. Their leading tackler, Germaine Pratt, has moved on. Pratt was also was tied for most sacks on the team. The person he was tied with, James Smith-Williams, is back along with most of their defensive line; a defensive line that was fifth in ACC in sacks (behind BC, I should mention) and second against the rush. The Wolfpack secondary lost only one starter and brings back their leader in INTs, Jarius Morehead. However, that may not mean much given the Wolfpack was 11th overall in the ACC against the pass. With all of this returning experience, it is unlikely that NC State’s will take a major step back this season.

Boston College v North Carolina State
Ricky Person Jr. could take on an even greater offensive load with the departure of Ryan Finley
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

What does this mean for BC?

Offensively the Eagles have the advantage of having many of their weapons returning from 2018, obviously headlined by AJ Dillon. Anthony Brown gives them stability and game-experience at QB, which NC State does not have. However, so much of BC’s offense in the past has relied on the ground game and that plays right into the strength of the Wolfpack defense. New offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, could potentially bring more balance to this offense and that will be critical against opponents like NC State.

Defensively, BC has almost as many unknowns as the Wolfpack offense. By the time the Eagles host NC State we will know more but currently it is a matchup of a new faces for both teams. With NC State’s inexperience on their offensive line, Eagles’ fans can hope that BC’s new front seven can take advantage and get some pressure on the Wolfpack QB. The D-Line will also play an important role if the Wolfpack look to their own ground game more in 2019. The Eagles’ front seven could be a deciding factor in this game as it could both attack NC State’s offensive weakness and defend against its potential strength.

This is a very winnable game for BC. With the data available right now it looks like it will be a low scoring affair as both teams strengths appear to be in the run game, though the Wolfpack look like they will once again be defensively tough against the run. This is a game BC can easily win but two things will need to happen in order for that to happen. BC’s offense needs to become more balanced and their defense particularly the front seven must develop in order to take advantages of the Wolfpack’s weaknesses.