After returning from a solid win against an injured Florida State team, the Wolfpack will continue its streak of home games and take on the No. 21 Liberty Flames as the Pack tries to push its home record to 4-1.
NC State (5-3, 5-3 ACC) will try to defend its own turf against undefeated Liberty (8-0). The Wolfpack currently has a strong winning record at home, only dropping one game to a highly ranked Miami in a heart-wrenching 44-41 loss. Liberty will be the Pack’s second ranked opponent in a game played at home, as the Flames’ top-25 status this year is a first in school history. This is also the Liberty Flames’ first full season as a part of the Football Bowl Subdivision, after joining last year.
Liberty has seen many firsts this season, not only is it now a ranked squad, but it collected a win against Syracuse, its first win against an ACC school. The Flames managed to do it again, taking down Virginia Tech about two weeks later in a close 38-35 game, a team NC State failed to beat this season.
With a perfect 8-0 record, Liberty will look to wreak havoc on the Wolfpack with its high-scoring offense. Throwing for 1,645 yards this season and 15 touchdowns, quarterback Malik Willis will bring an offensive threat that NC State has not seen this season. With a 97.8 last weekend against Western Carolina, he had the best total quarterback rating in the country. On top of his noteworthy statistics, Willis has been included on USA Today’s Heisman Watch List, currently naming him one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.
As impressive as Liberty’s stats are, the NC State Wolfpack is a force to be reckoned with. Redshirt junior quarterback Bailey Hockman has helped carry the team through the season after redshirt sophomore Devin Leary’s frightening leg injury against Duke. Hockman threw for a season high last week with 265 yards and two touchdowns against his former Seminoles squad.
NC State’s defense will need to gear up for this matchup, with Liberty averaging a whopping 40.5 points per game. In addition to the points they put on the board, the Flames offense has only thrown one interception all season. However, Liberty has yet to see a defense like NC State. The Wolfpack has tallied seven interceptions this season, plus 24 total sacks and six forced fumbles. Having dealt with other highly rated quarterbacks such as Miami’s D’Eriq King, the Pack will be prepared to handle whatever Liberty can throw at it.
While the Liberty Flames are truly on fire this season, NC State has a real chance to hand this hot team its first loss. Liberty has a threatening stat sheet, but the Wolfpack has one thing that will make a real difference: a better schedule. While the Flames have taken down two ACC teams this season, NC State’s recent ranked matchups such as UNC-Chapel Hill and Miami will prepare it for this week's tough battle.
This will no doubt be a close game and a tough battle for both teams, but if NC State can enter this matchup going full steam ahead, it will have a chance to catch this opponent off guard.
The game is slated to kick off Saturday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Prediction: NC State 31- Liberty 28