South Alabama-North Carolina State
Start Time: 8:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 26
Location: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
Records: South Alabama 2-1, North Carolina State 3-0. North Carolina State leads the overall series 2-0.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: South Alabama +17, Over/Under: 55.
South Alabama Outlook: The South Alabama Jaguars are heading into this game on the heels of an upset win over San Diego State in week three.
The Jaguars live and die with explosive plays on offense. They rank #27 in the nation in explosiveness, but if you took out the Nebraska game, they would probably be in the top five nationally. One of the most explosive players on the team is running back Xavier Johnson. The sophomore is averaging 8.8 yards per carry with 291 yards on the season. The entire team has rushed for 4.7 yards per game on the year.
The passing game has improved with the addition of UAB transfer Cody Clements at quarterback. The senior is only connecting on 55% of his pass attempts, but that number jumps significantly when targeting his former UAB teammates. When passing to Gerald Everett, Josh Magee, and DJ Vinson, Clements is completing 72% of his pass attempts. His numbers to other receivers should improve as the season progresses.
Defensively, the Jaguars are not going to completely shut down anyone on their schedule. Even versus Gardner-Webb, the defense gave up 23 points. The Jaguars are giving up 4.5 yards per carry on the season and 191.7 yards per game on the ground. Teams have taken advantage of that in running the ball nearly 70% of the time on standard downs and just over 40% of the time on passing downs.
Overall, teams are passing the ball on only 40.7% of all offensive plays. The Jaguars have been solid versus the passing game in giving up 200 yards per game in the air. Defensive back blitz packages have been the most successful with the secondary responsible for nine tackles for loss. The front seven have been poor versus the pass with only two sacks on the season.
North Carolina State Outlook: The Wolfpack have done everything asked of them in the opening three games of the season, all wins.
The Wolfpack are in the top ten nationally in average starting field position, starting on the 36 yard. Not only do the Wolfpack get good starting field position, but they are incredibly efficient, ranking #12 nationally in that category. Running back Matthew Dayes has been a major reason for offensive efficiency, with 350 yards rushing and 5.1 yards per carry. His is not the type of back to break many 80 yards runs, but he will get you five yards per carry all year long. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett can run when needed as evidenced by his 6.4 yards per carry average (not including sacks or kneeldowns).
Brissett has not been asked to do too much in the passing game, and has been very efficient when needed. The senior is connecting on 77.8% of his pass attempts on the season. The biggest worry is that defenses have been able to get to Brissett for six sacks on 72 pass attempts. Tight end Jaylen Samuels and wide receiver Jumichael Ramos have been the top targets in the passing game with 28 catches on 31 pass attempts. The duo is being targeted on 38.8% of all Wolfpack pass attempts.
Facing Troy, Eastern Kentucky, and Old Dominion, the Wolfpack have not exactly been tested all that much on defense. Even so, special teams again play a huge role with opponents starting on the 22 yard line versus NC State. The rush defense is stuffing opponents for only 2.2 yards per carry, good for a 28.0% offensive success rate. When teams are only putting up 51 yards per game on the ground, the pass defense will be tested.
For the most part, the Wolfpack pass defense has been excellent in giving up only 137.3 yards per game. So far, the defense has only really needed to send the front four, one of the most havoc inducing groups in the nation, to rush the passer. They have also shown defensive back blitzes to force opponents to prepare for them.
Prediction: North Carolina State has been a surprise for the ACC so far due to the fact that they have not been upset in a game they should have won. It is something that tends to happen in most seasons. Jacoby Brissett has been good passing when needed, but has not really been needed too much so far. The Wolfpack running game has been close to unstoppable in the opening three weeks. South Alabama has been doing just enough to win their toss up games, but were completely overmatched versus Nebraska. Expect the running game for North Carolina State to have their way with the Jaguars defense. North Carolina State wins 45-14.