ATLANTA – Despite a season wrecked by injuries and a defense that’s struggled to stop opposing offenses all season, North Carolina State travels to Georgia Tech on Thursday with a chance to become bowl eligible with wins in its final two games. The Wolfpack have started 45 players, most among power five schools, and have allowed an average of 44.5 points during a four-game losing streak, but with two wins would become bowl eligible for the sixth consecutive season.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Georgia Tech -2.5
Doing so requires moving on quickly from last week’s 34-20 home loss to Louisville, a game the Wolfpack led 10-7 at halftime before being outscored 20-0 in the third quarter and finishing with three turnovers, giving N.C. State 10 giveaways in its past three contests. “There were some plays in that game that we have to learn from, so we watched it quickly and put it to bed,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren told reporters Monday. “You’ve got to flush it.” The Yellow Jackets hope to flush arguably their worst performance of a tough season last week, a 45-0 home loss to Virginia Tech that marked the first time Georgia Tech has been shut out in 283 games (dating to 1997) and the program’s first home shutout in 382 games since 1957. “I thought it was the first game that the level of attrition caught up to us,” Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins told the media postgame, referring to injuries that forced the Yellow Jackets to deploy at least eight defensive linemen listed as freshmen or walk-ons.
ABOUT N.C. STATE (4-6, 1-5 ACC)
Redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Leary passed for 243 yards and two touchdowns against Louisville, and since taking over for sophomores Matthew McKay and Bailey Hockman against Boston College on Oct. 19 has thrown for 817 yards and six scores while completing only 46.3 percent of his passes. The Wolfpack average 22.9 points, 12th in the ACC - ahead of only Pittsburgh (22.2) and Georgia Tech (16.5) - and 105th nationally. Sophomore safety Tanner Ingle leads N.C. State with 66 tackles while senior defensive tackle Larrell Murchison has seven sacks, but making the turnover struggle worse is the fact the Wolfpack have not forced a turnover in six straight games.
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH (2-8, 1-6)
The Yellow Jackets, who had lost their previous two games by a combined 15 points after upsetting Miami on Oct. 19, were overwhelmed for 299 yards of total offense in the first half and 461 yards overall. Redshirt freshman quarterback James Graham, who passed for 229 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-28 loss at Virginia on Nov. 9, finished 7-for-14 for 43 yards and two interceptions as Georgia Tech finished with 134 yards of total offense. Sophomore running back Jordan Mason leads Georgia Tech with 721 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, while freshman receiver Ahmarean Brown has caught five touchdown passes.
1. Georgia Tech has blocked three kicks this season (including two blocked punts), all coming in the past five games.
2. N.C. State senior DE James Smith-Williams, the latest Wolfpack player to be lost to injury after leaving in the second half last week, was not listed on the two-deep depth chart for Thursday’s game.
3. The Yellow Jackets have won 12 of the past 15 meeting, but N.C. State has prevailed in the past two contests played in Atlanta (2005, 2010).
PREDICTION: N.C. State 24, Georgia Tech 21