NC State Wolfpack: Tipping Point Ahead in South Bend

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 14: Jaylen Samuels
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 14: Jaylen Samuels /

Coming off a bye week, the Wolfpack enter this weekend’s matchup at Notre Dame for a chance to contend for a College Football Playoff spot.

No. 14 NC State (6-1, 4-0 ACC) has been on a roll after dropping the season opener against South Carolina. The Wolfpack already has two wins over ranked opponents and currently sits atop the ACC Atlantic Division.

Despite this recent success and NFL prospects on both sides of the ball, State isn’t as high on the rankings as the talent could potentially elevate it. That can change this weekend.

The Wolfpack’s biggest challenge of the season, even greater than next week’s contest against Clemson, will undoubtedly be Saturday as it travels to South Bend, Ind. to face No. 9 Notre Dame (6-1). The Fighting Irish, also seeking CFP contention despite not aligning with a conference, has compiled an impressive résumé with its only loss coming to now-No. 4 Georgia by a single point.

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The Notre Dame dominance is objectively impressive. However, Notre Dame’s offensive strength lies exactly where the Wolfpack’s defensive supremacy has shined the brightest: the running game. The Irish ranks sixth in the nation in rushing offense. The Wolfpack ranks sixth in rushing defense. To put a marvelous perspective on that kind of matchup, here’s this.

This game isn’t just important because a supposedly even tougher team is next on the horizon. The Wolfpack can show the powers among the bowl selection committee that the team’s wins over Florida State and Louisville weren’t flukes, that State is a force to be reckoned with.

Bradley Chubb has been a one-man wrecking crew on a defensive line stacked full of pro-caliber talent. Ryan Finley has shown pinpoint precision behind center, still without an interception this season. Jaylen Samuels has continued his success wherever the Pack chooses to stick him. Nyheim Hines has emerged recently as a solid running back. Receivers such as Kelvin Harmon and Stephen Louis catch seemingly everything thrown their way. All of that said, the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts.

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Dave Doeren has taken these players and helped develop them into the top-tier team that, as of right now, can play for the ACC title. It’s up to the Wolfpack to show if it hasn’t what it takes to become a contender for the national championship.