The NC State Wolfpack has their backs up against the wall as they hit the road for a midweek ACC clash against the Georgie Tech Yellow Jackets. Game time is at 8:00 EST on Thursday, November 21 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Oddsmakers list the Yellow Jackets as 2-point favorites at home with an over/under of 47.5 points. Be sure to check out all of this week’s college football betting odds.
NC State is officially in a must-win situation after losing their fourth straight game against Louisville last week. Despite starting the season 3-1, the Wolfpack now sits at 4-6 and is in the conversation for being the worst team in the ACC this year, as they are just 1-5 in conference play. More importantly, their run of five consecutive bowl appearances under Dave Doeren is in serious jeopardy. NC State needs to beat Georgia Tech on Thursday and then knock off in-state rival North Carolina in their season finale to become bowl eligible. Otherwise, the Wolfpack will be sitting at home during the holidays.
Georgia Tech, of course, already knows that they’ll be staying home during bowl season. Geoff Collins knew he would have his work cut out for him at Georgia Tech, and that has proven to be true. The Yellow Jackets, to their credit, did score at least one ACC win this season, surprising Miami on the road last month. However, that win was preceded by a four-game losing streak that included a loss to FCS opponent The Citadel. The Yellow Jackets have also lost three in a row since beating Miami, including a 45-0 thrashing at the hands of Virginia Tech this past weekend. To make matters worse, the Yellow Jackets are set to entertain no. 4 Georgia in their season finale. A win over NC State might be Georgia Tech’s only way to avoid a 10-loss season.
Since they play in separate divisions, NC State and Georgia Tech have only crossed paths three times in the last 12 years. Georgia Tech has won two of those three games, including the most recent meeting in 2014 when the Yellow Jackets won 56-23. There isn’t much of a rivalry between these two teams, but the loser of Thursday’s game can probably be considered the worst team in the ACC, which is a title both will be desperate to avoid.
This is one of those games when neither team is all that appealing. However, Georgia Tech showed little fight or pride while they were losing 45-0 to Virginia Tech. It’s hard to believe that a team coming off that loss is being favored, even at home. Despite all of NC State’s problems, the Wolfpack have something to play for in this game, so I’ll take Doeren’s team to win as road underdogs.
Georgia Tech is no longer a pure triple-option team, but the Yellow Jackets are still largely reliant on their rushing attack. The problem is they haven’t been that effective running the ball this year. Running back Jordan Mason has had a solid year, but he’s struggled during the team’s current three-game losing streak. That includes gaining five yards on five carries last week against Virginia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets have been even worse throwing the ball. The freshmen tandem of James Graham and Jordan Yates produced just 81 passing yards last week on 25 attempts. For Yates, it was his first extended action of the season. Meanwhile, Graham has become the regular starter but has completed less than 50% of his passes on the season, throwing just eight touchdowns while giving away seven interceptions. That wouldn’t be good enough for a team with a decent rushing attack, much less a team that has struggled on the ground as much.
Obviously, with a 1-5 record in league play, the NC State defense has struggled for much of the season. However, the Wolfpack has done a nice job of stopping the run, even in their losses. A strong Louisville rushing attack was held to just 77 yards last week. Outside of Clemson, few teams have had consistent success running the ball against NC State’s stout defensive front. If the Yellow Jackets can’t even get their meager rushing attack going this week, I don’t know how they expect to score points. Even against a porous NC State secondary, I’m not sure Georgia Tech’s freshmen quarterbacks will be able to do much.
In fairness, the NC State offense has also been atrocious for most of the season. Redshirt freshman Devin Leary is the Wolfpack’s third different starting quarterback this year. None of the three have proven to be competent and reliable passers. However, NC State does have a nice collection of skill players, including three capable running backs and big-play receiver Emeka Emezie. Against a Georgia Tech defense that’s allowing 31 points per game this season, the Wolfpack should have the playmakers to find success without asking Leary and their other quarterbacks to do too much.
All things considered, I’m not sure Georgia Tech will be able to score too many points in this game. If the Wolfpack continues to stop the run, I don’t think the Yellow Jackets will have an answer. That should afford the pedestrian NC State offense plenty of time to manufacture points and get a much-needed win to keep their season alive.