RALEIGH, N.C. – Two teams still needing wins to become bowl eligible, after suffering blowout losses last time out, meet Saturday night when Louisville visits North Carolina State for an ACC matchup. Louisville has dropped two of three contests following a 52-27 setback at Miami (Fla.) while the Wolfpack have allowed a total of 144 points during a three-game losing streak and need to win two of the final three games to clinch a bowl bid.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: Louisville -4
The Cardinals pulled off a 28-21 victory over Virginia on Oct. 26 at home to pull within one win of bowl eligibility, but couldn’t carry the momentum through their bye week as they turned the ball over three times and gave up six touchdown passes against the Hurricanes last Saturday. “We didn’t execute in a lot of areas,” Louisville freshman running back Javian Hawkins, who moved within 22 rushing yards of 1,000, told reporters. “They did and it showed.” N.C. State, which has won the last two meetings, has been ravaged by injuries this season and had no answers last week when third-ranked Clemson rolled to a 55-10 victory in Raleigh, N.C. “You just take it one day at a time,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren told reporters. “I wouldn’t say morale is bad. I think guys are mad, more than having bad morale. … These guys want to win. They are frustrated. They all understand at the same time that we are playing with a short deck right now. They get that and they are playing hard. But we are not playing smart enough to win.”
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (5-4, 3-3 ACC)
Hawkins came within nine rushing yards of his third straight with at least 100 last week and can become the first Cardinal running back to reach 1,000 since Bilal Powell in 2010. Sophomore quarterback Micale Cunningham (10 TD passes, five rushing scores) and sophomore Tutu Atwell (47 catches, 810 yards, eight TDs), the team’s top receiver, have been slowed by injuries but are expected to play, although highly-regarded junior left tackle Mekhi Becton (ankle) is day-to-day. Freshman Evan Conley is likely to get some snaps at quarterback and junior Dez Fitzpatrick (26 receptions, 490 yards) is another top target for the Cardinals.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA STATE (4-5, 1-4)
The Wolfpack have used three quarterbacks this season, but freshman Devin Leary has been on the field the most in the last three games and has completed just 44.3 percent of his passes overall with four touchdown passes and two interceptions. Leary has five receivers who have gained at least 225 yards through the air, led by junior Emeka Emezie (43 receptions, 431 yards, one TD). Freshman running back Zonovan Knight stepped up last week with a season-high 139 yards and a score on the ground against Clemson, and leads the team with 528 on the season with four rushing touchdowns.
1. N.C. State sophomore S Tanner Ingle has a team-leading 63 tackles and had seven in last year’s 52-10 victory over the Cardinals.
2. Louisville sophomore RB Hassan Hall rushed for a career-best 79 yards last week and his fourth TD of the season.
3. The Cardinals are last in the ACC in scoring defense (34.1) and the Wolfpack is 12th in scoring offense (23.2).
PREDICTION: Louisville 31, N.C. State 21