Wake Forest @ N. C. State: Dude, Let's Go Bowling

Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

Will the Pack get the 2011 or the 2012 version of Tanner Price?

Wake Forest (5-4, 3-4) and N. C. State (5-4, 2-3) renew their Big 4 rivalry Saturday with each program gunning to become the ACC's fourth team to achieve bowl eligibility. Old Omega has been donning his swami cap and pretty much telling ya'll how these games are going to unfold. Don't turn it over and don't give up the big play and we have a shot against FSU. Check. UNC's defense is garbage, Glennon will have a huge day, but the Fedora Express is explosive: shootout. Last team with the ball wins. Heels score game winner with 13 seconds left. Check. Don't sleep on the Hoos. They've been unlucky. They've had a bye week to straighten their shit out. Turnovers are fickle bastards, and if they don't get bit by that bug the boys in red will be in trouble. Check.

Okay, so I would have never imagined State would get blown out at home by a Virginia team on a 6-game slide, but I was definitely not surprised that State lost. (As Pack fans, are we ever surprised?) So, what's going down Saturday at the C-F?

One thing that doesn't tell us much is the teams' shared history. There is perhaps no better illustration of the folly of trying to predict a game based on like opponents than Saturday's matchup. The Deacs and Pack share 4 common opponents: North Carolina, Florida State, Maryland, and Virginia. The teams split against those common foes, but they got their wins against the opposite pair. Wake beat North Carolina and Virginia. State beat Florida State and Maryland. The Deacs averaged 14.5 points in those games and gave up 27. The Pack averaged 19.5 points against those 4 teams and yielded 27.5. Not much to choose from there, though Wake's results against FSU (54-0) and Clemson (42-13), who State will play in week 12, indicate that the Deacs are easily exposed against teams with far superior athletes. State, unfortunately, does not fit that bill.

Recent history in the series would seem to bode well for the Pack, as the last 5 meetings have been won by the home team. State's comeback bid in Winston-Salem fell short last year thanks to, big shocker, a dropped pass that stalled the potential game-tying drive, but two years ago State won handily, 38-3, in Raleigh. State is also 14-3 at home over the past three seasons, but last weekend's epic failure against Virginia does little to inspire confidence that the C-F will provide a huge spark for a deflated Wolfpack Nation. (Those poor Toys for Tots kids are totally getting screwed this year.)

So, what shall we cling to as a barometer for Saturday's outcome? It will all depend on whether the (Tanner) Price is right*. Without go-to guy Chris Givens, who was a 4th round selection by Saint Louis in the NFL draft, Tanner Price has suffered through a monumental regression in his junior campaign. In 2011, Price posted a QB rating of 132.8, a respectable number that ranked 56th in the country. He averaged 7.1 yards an attempt and posted a 20-6 TD-INT ratio. This time around Price's 115.6 rating is 96th in the nation, he averages just 6 yards an attempt, and has a less impressive 12-5 TD-INT ratio. That, in a nutshell, explains Wake's 60-point plummet in the Football Outsiders' offensive efficiency ratings (see chart below).

You can't blame the run game for Price's struggles; Wake averaged a mere 3.2 yards per carry last year and is running at basically the same pace this year (3.3 ypc). You can't blame the protection; Wake gave up 2.69 sacks per game a year ago and an improved 2.0 so far this year. Dude just misses him some Givens, who hauled in 6 balls for 111 yards in last year's 34-27 win over the Pack. Givens was one of just 12 wideouts to average over 100 yards receiving per game last year. That's stout.

But Price is not without weapons. Michael Campanaro, who had a 93-yard receiving day and also threw for a score against State last year, has become Price's go-to guy. Campanaro is coming off a 16-catch, 3-TD performance in a win over Boston College and will find holes in the Pack's beleaguered secondary (speaking of regressing).

Bottom line: while both coaches love to give lip service to establishing the running game yada yada yada, it all comes down to the Deacs' signal caller. If Price posts a QB rating in the neighborhood of 137.9, which is what he did against the Pack in Winston-Salem, Wolfpack Nation is going to have to wait yet another week for bowl eligibility (or, more likely, put all their eggs into beating BC in two weeks since @Clemson is next). But, if Price plays like the 96th best quarterback in the FBS, Omega can start making plans for the bowl party. You're all invited!**

2011

N. C. State

Football Outsiders Metric

Wake Forest

50

Overall FEI

55

58

Offensive FEI

36

25

Defensive FEI

62

92

Special Teams Efficiency

79

2012

N. C. State

Football Outsiders Metric

Wake Forest

53

Overall FEI

80

63

Offensive FEI

96

37

Defensive FEI

51

101

Special Teams Efficiency

93

Wake Forest FBS Opponent O Efficiency Rankings:

1. North Carolina 28th

2. Florida State 44th

3. Army 33rd

4. Duke 58th

5. Maryland 105th

6. Virginia 92nd

7. Clemson 11th

8. Boston College 71st

Wake Forest FBS Opponent D Efficiency Rankings:

1. North Carolina 59th

2. Florida State 5th

3. Army 121st

4. Duke 97th

5. Maryland 44th

6. Virginia 38th

7. Clemson 61st

8. Boston College 90th

N. C. State FBS Opponent O Efficiency Rankings:

1. Tennessee 17th

2. UConn 114th

3. South Alabama 105th

4. Miami 50th

5. Florida State 44th

6. Maryland 105th

7. North Carolina 28th

8. Virginia 92nd

N. C. State FBS Opponent D Efficiency Rankings:

1. Tennessee 95th

2. UConn 27th

3. South Alabama 73rd

4. Miami 84th

5. Florida State 5th

6. Maryland 44th

7. North Carolina 59th

8. Virginia 38th

ACC Overall FEI Rankings (national rank in parentheses):

1. Florida State (8th)

2. Clemson (20th)

3. North Carolina (37th)

4. Georgia Tech (46th)

5. N. C. State (53rd)

6. Virginia Tech (57th)

7. Miami (67th)

8. Virginia (75th)

9. Maryland (76th)

10. Wake Forest (80th)

11. Boston College (90th)

12. Duke (91st)

*That price is right bit was the low point of my writing career. I am deeply sorry.

**You will have to bring your own damn alcohol.

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