N.C. State (1-1) vs. Gardner-Webb (2-0)
6 p.m., Saturday, Carter-Finley Stadium
Video on theACC.com, Audio on WRAL-FM 101.5
Key stats … Gardner-Webb, the second Football Championship Subdivision squad to come to Raleigh in as many weeks, faces an uphill battle in this contest. The Big South squad crushed Mars Hall and got a tough road win against Western Carolina en route to their first 2-0 start since 2006. Though the Wolfpack dismantled Murray State 65-7 last weekend, scoring on their first 10 drives, they could face a stiffer task against the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Last year, in the GW’s only ACC contest to date, Georgia Tech was forced to block a last-second field goal to survive 10-7. The team held eventual ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer to just 27 yards rushing. The Wolfpack, though superior in size and speed, will need to find a way to move to ball on the ground against a defense that’s allowed opponents to rush for more than 125 yards just four times in its last 13 contests.
N.C. State will win if … They can establish Toney Baker early and create turnovers. Baker scored three times last weekend, ending a long-injury-riddled scoring drought.
Gardner-Webb will win if … Quarterback Stan Doolittle keeps proving his surname wrong. Last week the senior led his team on a 12-play 79-yard drive to win the game on his QB-sneak touchdown. He earned Big South Offensive Player of the Week honors after going 23-40 for 265 yards and a TD and rushing 12 times for 30 yards and a TD.
What they’re saying … Gardner-Webb Coach Steve Patton: ‘We have some kids who could break into their starting lineup, but not a lot. The difference is the second-line players are often more highly recruited than our first-line players. We have some guys who can play there, but across the board we don’t.”
Players to watch … On the GW side of the ball Doolittle is the guy to watch, along with Patrick Hall, who is averaging 9.3 yards per carry this year, including a 58-yard scamper. Look for Willie Young to provide pressure of the edge and create an early turnover.
On the N.C. State side of things, Russell Wilson needs just 33 passes without an interception to break former Kentucky signal-caller Andre Woodson’s career mark. Look also for Jarvis Williams to get loose deep for an early score as he did against Murray State. The Wolfpack will content with a veteran defensive front seven, including Sporting News Preseason Second Team all-American selection Mario Brown.
Vegas line None
Score prediction and brief explanation 35-10 N.C. State. This Gardner Webb team proved it can hang with ACC talent last year, and is must more equipped to provide a test than was Murray State. Still, FBS talent will be a bit too much for them to overcome.