by Joe Schwartz
N.C. State (0-1) vs. Murray State (1-0)
6 p.m., Saturday, Carter-Finley Stadium
Video on Accsports.com, Audio on 101.5 WRAL FM
Key stats … Coming off a heated North vs. South battle last week against Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks, N.C. State now gets to start a new history. This marks not only the first meeting between the Wolfpack and Murray State of the Football Championship Division (formerly I-AA), but also the first time the Racers have faced any ACC school. The game seems a cupcake on it's face, but that's probably what Duke and Virginia thought last week before they fell to Richmond and William & Mary, respectively.
The Racers from Kentucky are talented. Last week against Kentucky Wesleyan they set a school record by scoring in seven different ways, including two safeties in the first half in a 66-10 drubbing. Make no mistake, this is a huge stepup in competition. Murray State failed to score an offensive touchdown last year in two contests against Football Bowl Division opponents Western Kentucky and Indiana.
N.C. State will win if … They get back to the basics. Hanging onto the football (Toney Baker's fumble on the team's first offensive play proved the difference last week), protecting the quarterback and achieving some offensive balance. They'll have to improve on their 133 yards of total offense from last week not only to win, but to gain confidence for Pittsburgh next week. If the defense plays as well as it did against South Carolina, Murray State won't find pay dirt.
Murray State will win if … They can get after the quarterback, play ball control football, keep it close and knick it at the end. Short of that they'll need return man Marcus Harris to duplicate last week's effort when he scored on both a kickoff and punt return. They also need to pretend no one is watching. They had 6,000 fans last week. This week they'll contend with 50,000 enemies, likely a few taking advantage of the two tickets for $24 deal.
Players to watch … With 14 students bearing "Wilson4Heisman" across their chests N.C. State Quarterback Russell Wilson, who's on Maxwell Award watch list, looked pedestrian against a stout South Carolina defense last week. But any quarterback, even Wilson, won't look great when they're sacked six times. Look for him to rebound and for his offensive line to give him more time in the pocket.
The key question is if the Wolfpack line can prevent 6-7 270 pound sackmaster Austin Lane out of the backfield.
Vegas line None.
Score prediction and brief explanation This week is just what the Wolfpack need, if they take advantage of it. The offensive line will want to prove its worth this week, and Wilson should have time to pick apart the Pacer defense. Murray State could provide a few highlights and thrills, but they just aren't in the same league, even with an N.C. State team that was disappointing in its opener. N.C. State 31 Murray State 10