Though NC State and Miami have identical 3-1 record headed into their game on Saturday, how much do we know about either team?
NC State comes into the contest after decisively beating South Alabama and The Citadel, two teams the Wolfpack should have rolled. Have they found a running game now with Shadrach Thornton? Is Mike Glennon going to play more consistently now that big-time FBS games are back on the schedule? Is the offensive line better? The front seven?
Miami comes into the game after its crazy overtime comeback win over Georgia Tech. Are the Hurricanes the team we saw storm out to a 19-0 lead? Or the one that fell behind 36-19? Or the one that stormed back to win?
"I hate to go backward; we have to go forward now," Miami coach Al Golden said at his weekly news conference. "I hope we learned something, but I hope we learned a lot from the Kansas State experience, too. Given the same situation, the way we went about trying to get back in that game, we went about it as individuals. This approach here was forget about the scoreboard, put your blinders on, and execute one play at a time. Have the confidence and the trust, and live with the results. Hopefully we gained confidence from that, but I don't want to keep living like this. It's not fun. We're in condition, we’re growing mentally tougher, there's some unity in our reservoir that we can rely on, and the guys stayed together and did a good job.”
NC State has won two straight in this series, but the teams have not played since 2008, so there is some major unfamiliarity on both sides. Al Golden was not the head coach at Miami the last time these two teams played; Tom O'Brien was in his second year with the Wolfpack.
Still, this is a hugely important game for both teams. Miami is already 2-0 in ACC play. NC State has yet to play a conference game. O'Brien said this week he is a fan of playing his four nonconference games to open the season and believes he did get some questions about his team answered in the last two weeks.
"We played well on defense in both games," he said during his weekly news conference. "We’ve made strides offensively, even with the injuries. Maybe we found something in Shadrach.”
Thornton got the starting nod last week because of injuries to Tony Creecy and James Washington, and another suspension for Mustafa Greene. Creecy will be available against the Hurricanes, but Thornton should see time as well after rushing for 145 yards and two touchdowns against The Citadel.
“He really didn’t miss anything," O'Brien said. "He was headed the right direction, ran the right routes, and did what he was supposed to do. So we hope that after his first experience he will be better this week and more prepared to do things. This defense we will face against Miami will pressure us a lot more than the defense did last Saturday. He’s not afraid to block somebody and that’s good because he will have to pick up somebody in the pass protection this week."
Miami has its own running back coming off an impressive performance, as Mike James scored four touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime. He and Duke Johnson are going to be a formidable duo to stop. Receiver Phillip Dorsett and quarterback Stephen Morris had big days against the Jackets as well.
But this game Saturday should give us more answers about both teams.