Published August 22, 2012 - 2:00pm
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We’re less than two weeks out from football, and it’s time to start looking ahead to all week-one games.
The Matchup: Tennessee vs. NC State
When: Friday, August 31st
Where: Atlanta, Georgia – Georgia Dome
Game Time: 7:30 PM ET
What you need to know about NC State: NC State features one of the best passing games in the ACC and one of the better quarterbacks in the country in Mike Glennon. He’s strictly a pocket passer, as he threw for over 3,000 yards last year with 31 touchdowns and 12 INTs.
Four offensive linemen return, along with an experienced quarterback and running back corps. The Wolfpack did lose three of the top four receivers, but this group does have experience and they should not have that much of a noticeable drop off from ‘11 to ‘12.
The Wolfpack boasted a +9 turnover margin, and they led the entire country with 27 interceptions. In addition, they have all four defensive backs returning. Junior David Amerson had 13 total interceptions, led the entire country in that department and returned two for touchdowns, racking up 205 return yards. So, if you’re an NC State fan, you have to be happy with the way the secondary matches up pretty well with Tennessee’s strength and the explosive passing game.
What you need to know about Tennessee: Tennessee will cut their teeth in 2012 with their high-powered passing attack and will pass to set up the run. While I’m more of an optimist than most about what this offense can accomplish, it all hinges on the running game’s ability to maintain balance in the offense. Tyler Bray can throw for 300 yards every game, but how many attempts will he average per game? In order for Tennessee’s offense to click, the worst rushing attack in the SEC last year will need to take a big step. Marlin Lane and Rajion Neal need to keep defenses honest, and both have questions entering 2012.
The Vols’ defense is transitioning over from a 4-3 to more of a 3-4 scheme, but it will run a combination of both to start out with, I’m sure. Derek Dooley finally has the big boys to play in the SEC, he says. And that starts with 6-8, 338 pound NT Daniel McCullers. Mount McCullers, the JUCO transfer, will be tasked with controlling the middle of Sal Sunseri’s defense. The Vols’ linebackers are young overall, but very talented, as is the secondary.
Tennessee finally boasts some depth on defense, a welcomed change from a solid first unit with no depth in the last few years.
What you need to watch: The biggest thing I want to see in this football game and exiting this game is the growth and maturation of Tyler Bray. I don’t care about the running game or the electric wide receivers, although both should be fun to watch – I will be glued to Bray. He’s been criticized in the past, and rightfully so sometimes, for having a lackadaisical attitude and not locking in on certain plays. He’s been in and out of the news in the off-season for tossing beer bottles and making waves on a Jet Ski, but I want to see this kid turn it on. I know everyone has his or her own way of getting locked into a game, but I want to see the potency of a ‘locked-in’ Tyler Bray and what effect it can have on the Tennessee team.
These two teams match up particularly well, but Tennessee should come out on top. They are the most desperate team.
Update: Tennessee WR Da’Rick Rogers has been suspended indefinitely and will not play against NC State.