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Louisville

vs.

NC State

College Football

Free Pick

10/5/17

It’s a short week for these teams playing on Thursday, but neither was tested all that much last Saturday so it may not be a huge factor. NC State has a slight edge playing at home, but with the best player in the game, Louisville is a -4 point favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

Last year’s Heisman winner Lamar Jackson has run through every team not named Clemson and that could be the case in this one. Jackson did whatever he wanted in last year’s meeting, leading the Cardinals to a huge 54-13 win. Jackson ran for 76 yards and a touchdown to go with 355 yards and three TDs through the air. He’s been his usual self this season, already with 18 total touchdowns and leading the team by far with 437 rushing yards.

The question is if NC State’s defense is any better and with how the first month of games has gone, it doesn’t appear to be. While the Wolfpack have a nice road win over FSU, that doesn’t mean as much with how the Seminoles have looked. In other games, the Wolfpack gave up 35 points to South Carolina, 16 to Furman and 25 to Syracuse. While this team is in the Top 25, there’s no reason to believe the defense is any better than a year ago when Jackson did whatever he wanted against them.

This will be NC State’s toughest test on the defensive side and it won’t be any easier on the other side. The Wolfpack have looked fine from the offensive end, but if they give up 40-plus points again, they probably won’t score enough to keep up.

Quarterback Ryan Finley has been efficient with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions to go with a 71.9 completion percentage, but most of that work has come with a lead. NC State also hasn't been that successful running the ball at 4.4 yards per carry against some weaker defenses. Nyheim Hines has been solid with 411 yards, but to have a chance in this one, he’ll need to have a big game. If the Wolfpack can establish a run behind Hines, that would be the starting point to limiting what Jackson does.

In last year’s game, NC State could find little rushing room en route to 14 yards and 0.6 yards per carry. That’s problematic against any team, but maybe even worse against this Louisville team because of how quickly they can score.

Playing on a short week, the Wolfpack will have an extreme task to stop Jackson from going off again. For now, there’s no reason to believe this defense can do that unless playing at home under the lights on national television will be enough to get them going. If not, Jackson should continue to do what he’s done this season and lead the Cardinals to around 40 points. NC State has been efficient offensively, but in a high-scoring game like this, it’ll be tough to back the Wolfpack as small home underdogs.

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