BTP: After playing in Norfolk last year the Monarchs and the Pack meet again, this time in Raleigh. What's new about this year's ODU squad vs last year's?
HM: The roster is about the same. ODU was a young team last year and 17 starters return. They're hopeful of improving enough to go to their first bowl game. They were 5-7 last season, their second year in FBS, and missed a bowl game by one field goal,
The defense is bigger and better than last year. Defense has long been an issue at ODU, even before North Carolina scored 80 points on the Monarchs in 2013. After spotting Appalachian a 17-point lead, they basically shut down the Mountaineers in the second half. The only second-half TD came when subs were in the game. It was the finest defense ODU has played since moving up to FBS.
The offense is the question mark this year. ODU has good talent, but failed to make critical catches against Appalachian State.
Quarterback David Washington, a senior from Raleigh and a graduate of Southeast High, is coming off major knee surgery and threw for four TD passes against Hampton in the opener and against Appalachian had a TD pass dropped and another wiped off the board because of pass interference.
BTP: NC State is coming off of a significantly disappointing loss to the Pirates, and it's safe to say the confidence of the team may be rattled a bit. How can ODU take advantage of this Saturday?
HM: This is a game State is supposed to win. Other than William and Mary, it's the most winnable game on their schedule, so I doubt they'll lack confidence against ODU.
The concern for ODU is how angry are they going to be after making so many critical mistakes at ECU and losing a game against a rival that they absolutely hate to lose to. It would have been better for ODU, I think, if State had beaten ECU.
BTP: Who on NC State's roster will give ODU's head coach Bobby Wilder the most concern?
HM: The defensive line in general and Bradley Chubb and B.J. Hill in particular. ODU's offensive line is young -- a redshirt freshman and sophomore start, and the top sub off the bench is a redshirt freshman. It will be difficult for ODU to create running room for Ray Lawry. Which takes us to the next question.
BTP: Last year against the Pack Ray Lawry scored an early touchdown, but wasn't able to keep that momentum going. What will he need to do to have more success against a pretty tough NC State defense?
HM: Lawry is not the kind of guy who's going to break 2 or 3 tackles. He's strong and pretty powerful, but his real strength is his ability, if you give him a little breathing room, to juke past defenders and beat people with his speed. He outran two State defensive backs last season when he caught his 70-yard pass. That's Ray's game. He'll get 2 or 5 yards per carry, then break a long one.
It's going to be difficult for him to find running room against State's defensive line, which was dominant last season.
BTP: Any major injury concerns for the Monarchs?
HM: Lawry had a pulled hamstring and was at, coaches say, about 75 percent strength against Appalachian. Pat Toal, a backup nose guard, is back after missing the first two games. DT Ryan Londree has an ankle sprain and is questionable. The biggest injury occurred during preseason camp to placekicker Chris Kirtley, who was on the Conference USA all-freshman team last season. He kicked in ODU's opener, but re-injured a hip flexor and it was announced yesterday that he's out for the season. Bailey Cate, a true freshman punter from Orange Park, Fla., will also now be the placekicker for ODU. Last week ODU passed on a 33-yard field goal because coaches didn't have confidence that the backup would make the kick. They'll gauge Cate's range in practice this week.
BTP: Let's get a prediction for the game!
HM: State 31, ODU 14
ODU keeps it relatively competitive for a half, but I think State's size and depth will wear down the Monarchs.