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NC State vs. South Alabama: Three things we're watching

Hey, look, this year's schedule is weird, so just go with it.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, hello, yes, is this thing still on [tap tap] ... okay good, how's everybody doing? Well, folks, we're on to South Alabama, and if you're like me, the fear never breaks. There's no end to the concern about, y'know, "well we could incur such-and-such disaster early on and then there's the road crowd to deal with." We are still there, to a special non-conference degree, for one more game.

1.) Tell me somethin', passing game.
As necessary, of course. Only need it as necessary, when we get down to the bare bones of it. But I'd appreciate a little something to say "yes, hello, we're here, and how are you doing?" NC State is due, and one breakthrough only comes down to Jacoby Brissett making the right read or finding the right timing where those things have been lacking.

Bra'Lon Cherry or Jumichael Ramos have needed time with Brissett, but they're gonna break a big one between them on Saturday night.

2.) Special teams without event is at worst fine, and at best great
You want to dwell on Kyle Bambard's missed field goals, that's your business, but only one of the two was a poor kick, and the kid is perfect on extra points. NC State has a consistent kickoff specialist in Jackson Maples, who has put 13 of 20 kicks into the end zone for touchbacks.

Opponents have zero punt returns for zero yards.

So far special teams has been a surprisingly significant edge for NC State, and that should continue this week. Field position differential can make a difference on the outcome, and so can opportunity with support. Both Bra'Lon Cherry and Nyheim Hines have been close to making good returns into great ones. Maybe this is the week.

3.) Where are the turnovers? 
NC State has only two takeaways in three games, suggesting at least that a course correction toward the mean is impending, though nothing is ever, ever guaranteed. But still, only two takeaways against a trio of undermanned opponents? Feels like that should start to change. South Alabama is averaging two giveaways per game.

Two USA turnovers should be plenty enough to put this game on ice in State's direction ... but we've got to roll some dice first.