NCAAF Best Bets for Thursday: Virginia Tech and NC State Struggle to Score

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Jack Chambers #14 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack runs the ball against Isaiah Johnson #20 of the Syracuse Orange. Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images/AFP.

The best sportsbooks have released their NCAAF odds for this Thursday’s college football action.

One game, in particular, interests me as worth investing in: Virginia Tech vs. NC State.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play both spread and total for this game.

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Virginia Tech Hokies vs. NC State Wolfpack

Thursday, October 27, 2022 – 07:30 PM EDT at Carter–Finley Stadium

NC State's Key Injury 

For NC State, starting quarterback Devin Leary is injured. Qualitatively, the drop-off from Leary to NC State's current quarterback is immense.

Leary is one of his school's leaders in passing yards. He was also regarded as a top quarterback prospect for the upcoming NFL draft.

These sorts of facts led to his selection as Preseason All-ACC Player of the Year. However, Leary tore his pectoral muscle and required surgery to repair it.

Jack Chambers 

Charleston Southern transfer Jack Chambers replaced Leary. In terms of playing style, Chambers differs from Leary because he relies on running the ball.

Last week, in his first game against Syracuse, Chambers mustered 160 passing yards and ran the ball 19 times for 58 yards. NC State's newfound offensive disadvantage limited its ability to sustain scoring drives.

The steep drop-off from Leary to the former FCS quarterback Chambers largely explains why the Wolfpack scored a season low nine points against Syracuse. 

Virginia Tech has sometimes limited quarterbacks to awful statistical outputs, with Pitt's Kedon Slovis being one such example. Chambers will pose a softer challenge than, at the very least, any ACC quarterback that the Hokies have already successfully dealt with.


Run The Ball 

Given its problem at the quarterback position, NC State is going to want to emphasize running the ball. The Wolfpack will find inspiration for this strategy from Pitt's performance against the Hokies.

While Pitt dominated on the ground, the Panthers are also collectively one of the ACC's leaders in rushing. Conversely, rushing the ball is repeatedly a weakness for the Wolfpack offense.

Last year, the Wolfpack had a reputedly strong duo at the running back position, in current New York Jet Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person. Despite having this duo, the Wolfpack ranked second-to-last in the conference in rushing.

This year, they rank 10th in the ACC in rushing. In this regard, keep an eye on the injury report. NC State's chances at running the ball effectively would be hindered even further if Demie Sumo-Karngbaye is not fit to play. Sumo-Karngbaye is listed as 'questionable' for Thursday's game with an undisclosed injury.

Virginia Tech's Run Defense 

This season, the Hokies have been developing young guys and other inexperienced starters along their front seven. As measured by PFF run defense grade, Josh Fuga has been a relatively valuable asset against the run compared with other ACC defensive tackles.

Hopefully, for our purposes, Fuga gets to continue developing. He is still listed as a starter on the Hokie depth chart, although Virginia Tech has been employing more experienced defensive linemen.

This newfound emphasis on veteran play paid off in the team's last game, a narrow loss to Miami. The Hurricanes averaged 3.8 YPC on 28 rush attempts, failing to use the run to put Virginia Tech away quietly.

One may try to counter that the Hurricane ground game isn't exactly strong, but its caliber is very comparable to NC State's. After facing the Hokies, Miami now averages 4.3 fewer yards per game than the Wolfpack.

Virginia Tech's Anemic Offense 

If you like the Hokie defense to perform well, as I certainly do, then playing the "under" is a must given Virginia Tech's season-long problems on offense. Nationally, the Hokies rank 112th in averaging 17.8 points per game.

In order for the "over" to hit, the Hokies would have to score above their season average and get help from an NC State offense relying on a former FCS quarterback and an annually meager ground game.

While the Wolfpack offense has grave problems, their defense is one of the toughest that Virginia Tech could encounter. The Wolfpack rank second in the ACC in limiting teams to 16.9 points per game.


Hokies' Ground Game vs. Wolfpack's Defense 

Throughout the season, Virginia Tech's offensive line has been mistake-ridden and apparently incompetent in many ways, missing assignments and otherwise struggling to make life easy for its quarterback and running back.

Last week, in addition to giving up six sacks, the Hokie offensive line made running back Malachi Thomas fight for every yard. Thomas could help his team average all of 2.6 YPC.

The Wolfpack run defense is formidable with a loaded linebacking group littered with All-ACC accolades.

Even after Payton Wilson and Isaiah Moore suffered injuries last year, the Wolfpack led the ACC in run stuff rate.

Payton Wilson

Wilson, the ACC's leading tackler two years ago, and Moore, twice selected as an All-ACC honorable mention, are not even as well-regarded as former All-ACC first-teamer Drake Thomas.

The Wolfpack linebackers will wreak havoc as their defensive line fosters their ability to operate especially thanks to Hokie offensive line issues.

Grant Wells' Issues 

Mistake-prone quarterback Grant Wells, who is also failing to complete 60% of his passes, will have to do too much against the ACC's third-best pass defense.

It is no coincidence that the Hokies' only ACC win came in the game in which Wells attempted the fewest passes that he's attempted in a game all season.


The Verdict 

For all of Virginia Tech's offensive shortcomings, I find it rather ridiculous that the Wolfpack are favored by nearly two touchdowns.

Especially with Chambers, I would have made out NC State to be maybe eight-point favorites. This will be a close game in which both teams struggle to move the ball.

Oddsmakers are not appreciating the extent to which the Wolfpack offense will suffer all the more as it is led by Chambers. With your NCAAF picks, be sure to play both the Hokies and the "Under".

NCAAF Pick: Virginia Tech +13.5 (-110) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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Virginia Tech +13.5 (-110)
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NCAAF Pick: Under 40 (-110) at Bovada

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Under 40 (-110)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.