5 things to watch: Wake Forest football looks to move to 5-0 against NC State

Despite two blowout losses in the last two years, Demon Deacons have reason for optimism against Wolfpack.

Marc Lebryk—USA Today Sports
Quarterback John Wolford completed five of seven passes for 132 yards and led his team to both of its touchdowns during Wake Forest's spring football game Saturday

Something about a game between two in-state teams just has a different feel. Knowing that there are ACC implications for both programs means this Saturday in Carter-Finley will be teeming with excitement for both fan bases.While the NC State vs. Wake Forest rivalry hasn’t always been one of the biggest in North Carolina, this year is unlike any matchup in the last decade. The Demon Deacons are undefeated under Dave Clawson and looking to improve to 2-0 on the road in the conference after downing Duke in Durham.But after a week off, NC State is in need of a win before the Atlantic Division gauntlet begins. Here’s a look at five things to watch when the Deacs and Wolfpack face off on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Raleigh.Finley looking to stay perfectThrough the first three games at NC State, Ryan Finley has proved why Dave Doeren and the coaching staff believed in him. Despite only a few months with the program, Finley was handed the keys to the offense and has yet to make a mistake.In 80 passing attempts, Finley has yet to throw an interception. That’s the second-longest streak to start a career at NC State, behind only Philip Rivers (99) in 2000. He’s also carrying a 76.3 completion percentage into Saturday, which tops the country.”I don’t care how many screens you’re throwing, 76 percent is impressive,” Clawson said. “He’s got a really good touch, he understands the offense, he can throw the deep ball and the intermediate ball.”Wake Forest ranks No. 2 in the ACC in turnover margin with a +5 mark through four games. NC State is also in the positive with a +1 margin, but has played one less game than their in-state rivals.The Deacs’ massive margin is thanks, in large part, to picking off Indiana five times last weekend. However, the Wake secondary has also allowed 250 passing yards per game — ranking 11th in the ACC. Finley is hoping to crack that bend-but-don’t-break style on Saturday.”They’re 4-0, so they’re feeling really confident about themselves,” Finley said. “We’ve just got to go execute our game plan. We’re playing against ourselves in my opinion. … They just do their job. So we have to do ours. It’s a must win for us.”Chubb seeing red vs. WakeOver the last two years, the Wake Forest vs. NC State game has been circled on the Chubb family’s calendar. The Bradley vs. Brandon showdown was always one that kept the house divided, whether they were in Raleigh or Winston-Salem.This year, however, only one brother remains. While Bradley won’t see his brother on the sidelines this year, he’s happy to have both of his parents on his side against Wake Forest.”It’ll be really good because all of them will be focusing on NC State,” Bradley said with a smile. “That’ll be fun. … I know a lot of people over at Wake now because I was going on visits with people that were in my class. Just talking junk to them is going to be fun.”While it’s fun for Chubb, facing him this season has been the exact opposite for offenses. He hasn’t recorded a sack this year, but Chubb already has three tackles for loss and has pressured the opposing quarterback twice.Clawson is familiar with Chubb, but admits getting a handle on the entire defensive line can be a struggle for his offensive linemen.”Obviously we know [Bradley] Chubb very well, he’s Brandon’s brother,” Clawson said. “He’s become an excellent player and is up to around 270 pounds. I don’t know if there’s a front that we played last year that gave us more problems than NC State and all those guys are back.”Ground game gridlockWhere the Pack and Deacs have excelled all season has been on the ground and against opposing rushing attacks. That will all come to a head on Saturday, with each looking to continue their dominance.Both teams rank in the top six in the conference in rushing yards allowed. Wake Forest has allowed an average of 88.9 rushing yards per game while NC State is giving up 109. However, the Wolfpack still has all of its weapons in the backfield while Wake will be without Cade Carney.In place of Carney, Matt Colburn has led the way with a 4.1 yards per carry average. The sophomore has totaled at least 130 total yards in the last two games with a touchdown. Tyler Bell also had success against NC State last season with 11 carries and 53 yards in the loss. On the other side is Matt Dayes, who has destroyed Wake in the last two years. He accounted for 221 total yards and two touchdowns against Wake in 2015 after a two-score outing in 2014. Add in the authority Reggie Gallaspy has rushed with in the last two games and State has an arsenal of weapons in its backfield.If there’s one advantage for either team, it’s NC State’s size on the offensive line. Both offensive lines average more than 300 pounds, but Wake’s defensive front weighs in at 272.5 pounds per player. Using that to its advantage will be critical for a State team that needs to control the ground game for Eli Drinkwitz’s offense to thrive.Return of NyheimWhat does a healthy Nyheim Hines mean for NC State? Everything.Hines is a return specialist averaging 20 yards per kickoff return. He also has seven receptions for 70 yards. Oh, and don’t forget to tack on the four carries for 22 yards. Hines has done all that in just two games, missing the end of the ECU game after suffering an ankle injury.NC State was able to easily dismiss Old Dominion without him, but lacked some punch in the return game. Finley is excited to have the extra weapon at his disposal to start conference play.”We’ve definitely missed his speed and his energy,” Finley said of Hines. “So it’s going to be nice to get him back.”Hines will join Dayes, Jaylen Samuels, Stephen Louis and Bra’Lon Cherry in State’s productive offense. With a steady Finley at the wheel, the Pack offense is back at full speed heading into the in-state showdown.Matchup HistorySimply put, this rivalry has been as close to even as possible over the last two decades.In the last 10 years, the record for both teams stands at 5-5. Outside of last year’s win for NC State in Winston-Salem, the Pack had not won a game at BB&T Field since 2001. Now Wake is looking for its first win at Carter-Finley since 2006.Overall, the record is 17-3 for home team in last 20 years. While Wake has regularly been competitive against NC State, the Pack has won the last two games by a total margin of 77-30.Don’t expect another drubbing this Saturday, however, with Wake looking like a much-improved team under Clawson in year three. With both teams nearing the of the Atlantic Division gauntlet, Wake and State are desperately in need of a conference and in-state win on Saturday.