The following is a cheat sheet I’ve thrown together with some key stats and factoids that might help you guage where NC State and Tennessee sit going into the Chick-Fil-A Kick-Off. Feel free to add more information in the comments section.
Catching The Game
This week’s game will be broadcast on ESPNU as a part of the Chick-Fil-A Kick-Off event at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. The only other major college game on TV during this same time is a match-up between Penn St and Stanfard on ESPN (and several regional ESPN syndicates).
Tennessee has talent and depth, but Coach Dooley has had problems getting the team to click. Don’t be fooled by last season’s record; the Vols went 5-7 last season, but that included a mid-season losing streak where starting quarterback Tyler Bray would find himself on the disabled list. Tennessee is much better than their record indicates, but at the end of the day, they still lack a cohesive offense; their passing game is amongst one of the best in the country while their offensive line returns a cadre of starters that lead to a terrible 2011 campaign and an underperforming running game (their offense in 2011 earned almost 500 less total yardage than NC State). Their strength is their defense due to adjustments to the 3-4 defense and the addition of some strong defensive players, but with an experienced offensive line protecting Mike Glennon, NC State should come out on top.
Tyler Bray may have Glennon on experience, but in Mike’s one season as starting quarterback for NC State, he has nearly matched Bray in every statistical category. Bray also suffered an injury last season and while he returned to action for the last several games of the 2011 season, time will tell if ghosts of an injured past will re-appear, especially if NC State can get some pressure on the pocket and some linebackers can step up.
Derek Dooley has a long list of stations he has served at as a coach, but what he doesn’t have is patience. Spending no more than 2 or 3 years at any one school, Dooley has experience everywhere from FCS programs, to the NFL, to SEC programs. Ironically, he was a player at UVa while Tom O’Brien was still an offensive coordinator with the Wahoos. O’Brien’s record looks god-like compared to Dooley’s and for this reason, the coaching war seems clearly in NC State’s favor.
Every team has their strengths and weaknesses. NC State has maturity and discipline while Tennessee has defensive depth. Unfortunately, when you run a program with the pressures that an SEC schedule brings competing with a coach who has never spent more than a couple years with any given team and sports and overall losing record, you can’t expect a lot out of them. Tennessee is definitely better than their 5-7 record indicate, but NC State should still be able to get a big win against a “big name” opponent on a national stage with little television competition.