by Joe Schwartz
Maryland (2-6, 1-3 ACC) vs. N.C. State (3-5, 0-4 ACC)
1 p.m., Saturday, Carter-Finley Stadium
ESPN 360, WRAL 101.5 FM
Key stats … This isn't the preview story either of these two teams thought would be written when the season started, or just a month ago, really. But two teams that started far more brightly than they find themselves now will square off Saturday with seven conferences losses and a single ACC win (Maryland's 24-21 victory against Clemson in their conference opener) between them. Now they face off as the last place and second-to-last place teams in the Atlantic Division. UNC is the only other team with one ACC win or less.
That means you'll probably see a wide open affair. Both teams need to win out to make a bowl game, but with N.C. State riding a four-game losing streak and the Terrapins having lost three straight and five of their last six, that seems unlikely at this point. It is Homecoming weekend in Raleigh, so perhaps the Wolfpack faithful can provide the spark that gets Tom O'Brien's talented, yet injury-riddled club turned in the right direction. The all-time series record doesn't give us much of a clue, however. In 65 contests, Maryland has won 31, N.C. State has 30 and there have been four ties. The Terrapins have won three straight, though.
Maryland will win if … Quarterback Chris Turner can capitalize on what's sure to be several trips to the red zone. Too often, the Terrapins are getting field goals instead of touchdowns. They'll need seven points per trip to keep up with Russell Wilson and company.
N.C. State will win if … It's struggling defense can play better than Maryland's equally challenged offense. N.C. State is giving up 44 points per game to conference foes, while Maryalnd put up nine against Virginia and 13 against Duke in back-to-back weeks. Wilson and Toney Baker have lead a prolific dual-threat Wolfpack offense this year. They just need some help from their teammates on the other side of the ball.
Vegas line N.C. State (-6.5)
Score prediction and brief explanation Both teams have struggled, but N.C. State is both at home, where they are 3-1 this year, and has more overall talent than Maryland. This is the week the Wolfpack finally put it together and get their first confernce win. N.C. State 31 Maryland 20